lindsey vonn does a ski drill as she returns in portillo

Photo: Jonathan Selkowitz/Red Bull Content Pool

A smiling and reportedly pain-free Lindsey Vonn, an Olympic gold medalist and four-time World Cup overall champion, clicked into her skis for the first time in almost seven months on Saturday as she rejoined the women’s speed team for the first day of a two-week camp in Portillo, Chile.

Originally slated to ski for the first time on Sunday, an eager Vonn – who landed in nearby Santiago Saturday morning – snatched two gentle runs as soon as her equipment arrived in Portillo.

“I’ve crashed a lot in my career and I’m just getting back up as fast as I can,” said Vonn. “Unfortunately it’s taken me seven months to get back up this time but I was really excited to get back out there. It feels like the right time and my body feels ready.”

Vonn severely injured her right knee, resulting in a torn ACL/MCL and a fractured tibial plateau, on Feb. 5 during a crash in the opening race of the World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria. While projected to return to snow in November, Vonn is ahead of schedule as she begins to build toward defending her downhill Olympic gold medal next February in Sochi, Russia – just over one year after her season-ending crash.

On Sunday, Vonn picked up the pace slightly with five runs consisting of easy drills and minor arcing on flat terrain. She hopes to return to gate training near the end of the two-week camp.

“I can’t tell which knee is injured – that’s a good sign,” said Vonn. “I usually go from zero to a hundred. I’m not good in between so this is going to be a challenge.”

Vonn joined teammates Julia Mancuso, Stacey Cook, Leanne Smith and Laurenne Ross for the two-week camp. St. Anton downhill winner Alice McKennis hopes to return to snow in November after suffering a similar injury to Vonn at the end of the season.

Vonn is hoping to return to racing in time for the Nov. 29-Dec. 1 World Cup races in Beaver Creek. The three-day event will serve as a test for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.

Currently Vonn is three wins behind Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proll’s all-time women’s record of 62 World Cup wins. If Vonn surpasses the mark this season, she will become the most successful female in World Cup history.

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