Lindsey Vonn finished 18th in her first World Cup downhill training run this year in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Tuesday, three days before her first scheduled race since January knee surgery.
Vonn said she wore a brace, and she’s saving risk-taking for the actual races, which start Friday.
Vonn completed the course in 1 minute, 54.41 seconds, which was 1.82 slower than Norwegian leader Lotte Smiseth Sejersted.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this race,” Vonn said. “Today was fun. I have a huge smile on my face. It was a perfect way to start the season.”
Vonn will have two more opportunities for training runs, on Wednesday and Thursday before the first of three races this weekend, a downhill on Friday.
Vonn, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion, hasn’t raced since Dec. 21, 2013, when she aggravated her surgically repaired right knee in a World Cup race in Val d’Isere, France. She underwent more knee surgery in January, ruling her out of the Sochi Olympics.
“I told them before I started skiing this preparation period that they had to slow me down,” Vonn said. “I think that was my problem last year is I wanted to get back racing, and I wanted to go 100 percent all the time. Unfortunately, that’s a little bit dangerous for me at this point. I’m saving all the risks and going 100 percent for the races and trying to take it a little bit easier in the training.”
In her comeback this week, Vonn is expected to race in downhills Friday and Saturday and a super-G on Sunday at a venue nicknamed “Lake Lindsey” for her overwhelming success there.
Vonn, 30, won seven straight World Cup races in Lake Louise from 2010 to 2012. She finished first or second in 17 of 19 World Cup races there from 2006 to 2012.
Vonn’s right knee problems began at the February 2013 World Championships, when she crashed in the super-G and required season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL, MCL and a fractured tibial plateau.
She injured the knee again in a training crash on Nov. 20, 2013. Vonn’s only three completed races last season were at Lake Louise, where she finished 40th, 11th and fifth last December. She was 22nd in her training run before those Lake Louise races last year.
Vonn’s goals for the rest of her career are clear. She wants to pass retired Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell for the women’s World Cup record of 62 career victories. Vonn has 59.
Vonn has said she also has thought about the men’s record held by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark, who won 86 races.
Vonn averaged 10 victories per season from 2009 through 2012. If she gets back on that pace and stays healthy, she would need to ski well into the 2016-17 World Cup season to pass Stenmark around age 32.
She also wants to ski at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics. If she competes there and wins a medal, she is slated to become the oldest women’s Olympic Alpine skiing medalist of all time.