Lindsey Vonn considers dropping slalom to focus on speed races
Lindsey Vonn's days of competing in all five ski disciplines may be behind her, since the four-time overall World Cup champion is seriously considering giving up slalom in her comeback from a career-threatening knee injury.
The 30-year-old American racer thinks she is still somewhat off the pace in speed events, despite clinching her first victory in nearly two years in a downhill at Lake Louise, Canada, on Dec. 7.
The 2010 Olympic downhill champion thinks ditching slalom may help her cause to become the No. 1 speed racer again.
''I definitely plan on doing (giant slalom), but I want to focus on the speed races right now,'' Vonn said on Thursday ahead of a downhill and super-G in the French resort of Val d'Isere. ''I don't know if I'll do slalom again. It's difficult starting in the back. But we'll see. I haven't skied slalom since my injuries, so I don't know how it feels yet.''
Vonn's previous World Cup victory was in GS on Jan. 26, 2013, in Maribor, Slovenia, and she has raced only seven races since.
Less than two months after that win, she injured her right knee in a heavy fall at the world championships.
Desperate to get back in time for the Sochi Games, she partially tore one of the reconstructed ligaments in a training crash in Copper Mountain, Colorado.
Again, she attempted to grind things out, only to sprain her MCL racing downhill in Val d'Isere last December, and had a second surgery a month later.
''I'm in a much different position this year than I was last year,'' Vonn said. ''I have a healthy knee finally. So I'm looking forward to the races this weekend and hopefully the conditions will be good.''
It has been a big month.
Racing downhill for the first time since hurting her knee again in Val d'Isere, Vonn finished eighth at Lake Louise and grabbed a second-place finish in super-G to go with her downhill triumph.
''I wasn't expecting to be as fast as I was in Lake Louise. The first race, being eighth place was about what I expected,'' she said. ''But I learned a lot from the first race and tried to improve, and both the second downhill and the super-G were good performances.''
Still, she thinks she can do much better.
''I'm trying to be more comfortable with the speed and to be more aggressive. Downhill is a little bit farther along than super-G, and I definitely need more training. This weekend, hopefully I'll have good results like I did in Lake Louise. But it's a process, coming back from two years of injury takes a bit of time.''
Vonn last raced slalom at Maribor, the day after her GS win, and the last time she scored points was when finishing eighth at Schladming, Austria, in March 2012.
Although she did not finish her three slalom races before Schladming, she had previously shown good form in the discipline: Winning two races and securing three other podium finishes over a calendar year from November 2008-2009.
Her reluctance to race slalom again is good news for World Cup leader Tina Maze.
The 2013 overall champion competes in all five events, and the Slovenian heads into Val d'Isere in superb form after winning a GS and placing second in slalom at the Swedish resort of Are last weekend.
''It's fun to change disciplines and try to be in front in each,'' Maze said.
She leads overall with 560 points from Austria's Anna Fenninger on 303, while Vonn is eighth with 212.