Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso join men’s team for first day of downhill at Copper Mountain
Almost a year to the day since partially tearing her ACL on the very same slope, Lindsey Vonn took to the starting gate at Copper Mountain Thursday for her first full-length downhill training session on the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center course.
“It’s definitely on my mind,” the four-time overall World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist said of last year’s injury, which cost her a trip to the Sochi Games. “I’m definitely more conservative than I would be if I was on another trail that I didn’t blow my knee out at.”
After running the upper section, Vonn opted to ease up on the lower half of the course — where last year’s accident happened — on each of her training runs.
“I was just trying to focus on getting used to the speed,” she said of her approach to Thursday’s practice, “just kind of slowly building my way back into it.”
With the late opening of the full Speed Center course, she said downhill training has been somewhat limited but she feels like she’s making good progress and will be ready for the World Cup event at Lake Louise, Alberta, Dec. 5-8.
While there may have been some initial nerves, Vonn said she grew more confident with each run, and after a day off Friday she will resume downhill training with the women’s team on Saturday.
“By the last run I felt a lot more comfortable and that’s the goal,” she said. As to how her knee has affected her approach, she added, “It’s not something that makes me nervous, it just makes me more aware of the snow conditions and how I’m tactically skiing the course. It forces me to ski smarter, not as aggressive as I normally would.”
TRAINING AS A TEAM
Vonn and teammate Julia Mancuso joined fellow gold medalist Ted Ligety and the U.S. Alpine men’s team for Thursday’s practice while the rest of the women’s team had the day off.
“It’s good to train with the men sometimes,” Vonn said. “I get to see a different line and push myself a little more.”
Ligety spent the day training downhill in the morning and giant slalom in the afternoon.
After practice he said he was impressed by this year’s downhill course and complimented the Copper Mountain operations staff on its efforts.
“They built some terrain into it,” he said of the course. “I think it’s more for real, in your face, than maybe it has been in years past when it’s (been) kind of a NASCAR race.”
He and the men’s team will leave for Lake Louise later in the week for the men’s World Cup downhills and super G, while the women will continue training for the World Cup slalom and giant slalom competitions in Aspen Thanksgiving weekend and their Lake Louise races the following week. The men will return to Colorado for the World Cup competition on Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey course Dec. 5-7.
While the team had less access to the full-length speed course this year than it’s had in years past — because of the weather — the consensus is that the training has been productive.
“It’s so rare to be able to get full-length downhill training” at this time of year, Ligety said. “To be able to have this is a huge asset for us.”
Even with the limited time before Lake Louise, teammate and Sochi silver medalist Andrew Weibrecht agreed. “A couple of days is all you need,” he said of the full course. The team has been practicing at Copper between World Cup events since early November.
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