Lindsey Vonn, who originally planned to make her season debut in December, instead plans to race on Saturday in the World Cup season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria (6:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel).
That’s provided conditions are safe. Watch her announcement here.
“I didn’t race any GS last year because of my [broken] arm injury, but I skied really well this summer in New Zealand,” Vonn said Thursday. “I feel like I’m in good enough shape, and it’s a good opportunity. See what happens.
“The biggest thing this season is staying healthy. So I really don’t want to take any chances. I just want to ski solid. My solid skiing is enough to get in the top 15. That’s all I really need.”
It will mark Vonn’s earliest start to a season since before her recent series of major injuries that began at the February 2013 World Championships, forcing her to miss defending her Olympic downhill title in Sochi.
Vonn originally planned to begin her lead-up to PyeongChang the first weekend of December with speed races (downhill, super-G) at her favorite venue of Lake Louise, Alberta.
Vonn last raced giant slalom Jan. 30, 2016 and last won a GS on Dec. 12, 2015, her only finish better than fifth in a GS since January 2013.
She last raced Soelden, the annual World Cup opener in late October, in 2012. Vonn won Soelden in 2011, but giant slalom is not one of her better disciplines.
“Before I was injured, the season before I won a GS [in 2012], so I know that I can ski well,” Vonn, who owns four career World Cup GS wins, said in April. “It’s just a matter of if I have a healthy prep period I can train it.”
The Soelden favorites are world giant slalom gold and silver medalists Tessa Worley of France and American Mikaela Shiffrin.
Vonn, Shiffrin and German Viktoria Rebensburg are the only women in Saturday’s field who have won Soelden. (Update: Swiss Lara Gut, like Vonn, surprisingly announced she will race Saturday. Gut, a two-time winner in Soelden, is returning from suffering a torn ACL with meniscus damage in February.)
Vonn said in April that she intended to race the giant slalom at her likely final Olympics in February. The Olympic schedule makes it more enticing.
The women’s technical events of giant slalom and slalom are in the first week of the PyeongChang Winter Games. The downhill and super-G are in the second week.
“It’s going to be good for me to get over there early, get settled in, get one race under my belt,” Vonn said in April.
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