COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. (AP) Her right knee finally free of pain, Lindsey Vonn is actually considering moving up her return to racing.
In pain because of a bulging disk in his back, Bode Miller is simply trying to ski through it.
Two different tales to start the season for two of the biggest names in U.S. skiing.
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Miller missed the season opener in Soelden, Austria, last month because of his balky back, which he said has been bothering him since tumbling at the World Cup Finals last season. Vonn hasn’t raced in nearly a year due to a torn ACL that’s required two surgeries and sidelined her for the Sochi Olympics.
”I feel really good,” Vonn told The Associated Press on Thursday after a training session at Copper Mountain. ”I was expecting to have some bumps along the way. But I haven’t had any problems, no setbacks. It hasn’t gotten swollen. Haven’t even felt it, no pain. I’m pretty excited where things are at.”
For months, the four-time overall World Cup champion planned her return around the races in Lake Louise, Alberta, during the first week of December. After some solid training days, Vonn is actually considering coming back for the events in Aspen, Colorado, over Thanksgiving weekend.
Nothing’s set in stone, she’s just pondering the option.
”You know me, I never rule anything out until the last minute,” said Vonn, who turned 30 last month. ”At the same time, I need to also be more reserved than I was last year. I think Lake Louise is the perfect place for me to start. That’s still the plan.
”But you never know. Things could change if I start skiing incredibly fast. I can’t rule it completely out.”
Vonn will be chasing history this season. She’s three wins from matching the World Cup record of 62 race victories by skiing great Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria. Of her 59 career World Cup race victories, 14 have come at Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies.
On a sunny morning, Vonn squeezed in about six training runs. Nothing too aggressive, just some easy turns to test out some of her equipment.
”I’d say I’m 85 percent (back),” she said. ”I feel like I need a little bit more training, more repetition. Otherwise, the technique and stuff is all there. Just need to get the tactics down, get some more reps. I’ll be in good shape after a couple more training sessions.”
Her next step is picking up the tempo. She’s only gone all-out a few times, and only in small sections.
”I’m a little more tentative still on the more difficult terrain,” said Vonn, who will wear a knee brace this season. ”That just comes with time. With more training and more confidence, I’ll be good.”
The 37-year-old Miller spent part of the morning freeskiing before getting in some runs along the giant slalom course. Afterward, he said his back was still bothering him. He expects it to possibly be that way for a while.
Still, he fully plans to ski at Lake Louise in three weeks.
”I’m ready,” said the two-time overall World Cup winner, who skipped Soelden to give his back even more time to rest.
Miller returned last season from a year off to recover from knee surgery. He captured bronze in the super-G at the Sochi Games, the sixth Olympic medal of his career.
Near the end of last season, though, Miller hurt his back in a wipeout.
”I detonated that disk,” Miller said. ”Now, it’s putting a lot of pressure on the nerve.”
He chuckled as he thought of all the crashes and spills during a career in which he took chances few others would dare attempt.
”I’m getting to the point where my body is protesting pretty vehemently,” Miller said. ”I’ve always been so healthy and lucky.”
Asked if his back might require surgery one day, Miller said, ”I hope not.”
”I can’t really act too surprised that my disks aren’t that happy,” Miller added. ”It’s been a long, aggressive career with my back.”