‘Snow Queen’ Lindsey Vonn returns to World Cup in Italy

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The wait was finally over for the U.S.’ Lindsey Vonn, who returned to World Cup competition today in Italy after being out of commission with a knee injury since November. Vonn crashed in training runs ahead of the third World Cup stop this season in Lake Louise, but lucky for the four-time Olympian, the injury did not require surgery.

Friday’s downhill race in Cortina d’Ampezzo replaced the cancelled St. Anton event from one week ago, when a snowstorm put Vonn’s World Cup season debut on hold. Vonn had her last taste of competition back in March 2018. Needless to say, the “Snow Queen” was amped to be back.

Wearing lucky bib #13, and now strapped with matching knee braces, Vonn charged out of the start gate. Despite being clocked at a screaming 75 mph as she attacked the gates, Vonn crossed the finish in seventh place, .79 hundredths of a second behind then-current leader, Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec, who jumped out to take the early lead in the one-run race.

After seeing the scoreboard at the bottom of the hill, Vonn gave a shrug as she caught her breath, then waved to the crowd.

Vonn ultimately slipped into a tie for 15th, with a time that was 1.15 seconds off the lead.

The seventeenth skier out of the gate, Austria’s 27-year-old Ramona Siebenhofer laid down the winning run of the day, stealing the lead away from Stuhec by .40 hundredths of a second. Finishing in third was Austria’s Stephanie Venier. Full results are here.

Vonn is chasing the all-time World Cup wins record — for a man or woman — held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark. Vonn currently has 82 to Stenmark’s 86, but has said she intends to retire at the end of this season. Vonn told the Associated Press last week she’ll be fine if she doesn’t get the record.

“The record won’t define me, whether I get it or not,” Vonn said according to the Associated Press. “I don’t need 87 wins to be able to continue the work of my foundation, to help kids, inspire people to be healthy and active and be positive and strive to reach their dreams and goals. I don’t need that record to accomplish those things. Once I retire, 87 won’t really matter anymore.

Vonn has appeared on a World Cup downhill podium in Cortina d’Ampezzo nine times in her career — five times as the winner. The last time Vonn won a downhill at the venue was in 2016. Last season Vonn won four downhill races and one Super-G. Two of those victories came in Germany at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, next week’s World Cup stop.

Vonn will be back tomorrow racing in the second downhill of the weekend. Watch the race live on Olympic Channel or stream it on NBC Sports Gold.

The men’s World Cup resumed in Wengen, Switzerland on Friday with the Alpine combined. After the opening slalom run, U.S. skier Ted Ligety was sitting in fourth position, 1.20 seconds behind the leader at the break, Austria’s Marco Schwarz. Ligety ended up crossing the line in 11th after finishing his downhill run, eventually getting bumped back to 14th.  

Finishing in 15th behind Ligety was the U.S.’ Bryce Bennett.

Schwarz held on to take the top podium spot, getting his first career World Cup Alpine combined victory. A pair of Frenchmen joined Schwarz on the podium, Victor Muffat-Jeandet and Alexis Pinturault. Full results are here.

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