At a press conference in Aspen, Colo., Friday evening Lindsey Vonn said she wasn’t sure until yesterday if she would be able to compete in the women’s World Cup races this weekend. The four-time overall champ, who has never claimed a podium on the Aspen slope, will race in Saturday’s GS, but will skip the slalom on Sunday.
“It’s always fun to be racing at home. The thought of the possibility of not racing here made me extremely sad,” Vonn said. “Unfortunately, I’m not going to be racing in the slalom. I’m going to try and conserve my energy and be prepared for Lake Louise.”
Vonn spent two nights in a Vail, Colo. hospital earlier in the month and more than a week in bed. She skipped the World Cup slalom opener in Levi, Finland two weeks ago, but that decision had already been made prior to her illness. She returned to snow on Nov. 17 with light freeskiing and hopped back in gates later in the week. However, she has not yet trained full-length GS, not since Soelden.
“I got a really bad stomach virus,” said Vonn in her first media appearance since the illness. “It wasn’t getting better and we went to the hospital. … I was at a point when the pain was too severe, and the medication I was getting wasn’t working. And we needed to resolve it. The doctors took care of me in Vail.”
The four-time overall champ said she’s still struggling with appetite, but has not lost very much weight. Her strength is returning, but she’s still working on getting her cardio back to normal levels.
Vonn had an opportunity to freeski the Aspen course Friday and said the snow is perfect.
“They did a great job preparing the hill. To be honest with you, Aspen is not exactly my ideal hill. It’s a very difficult hill for me. It’s very challenging terrain. Like I said, it’s high altitude, so you have to ski a challenging course, which is very tough, physically. And it just doesn’t feel good when you have to fight the entire way down the hill,” Vonn said.
Of course, Aspen is not her first choice this weekend. Vonn would rather be making a start in Lake Louise, but an FIS decision earlier this month denied her entry into the men’s race in Alberta.
“I was definitely hoping to be able to race with the men this weekend,” Vonn said. “But unfortunately, FIS made the decision that a women cannot race with the men. For me, the story is still ongoing. It’s not over yet. There’s still next year. And I’m going to be working hard to try to make my dream a reality.”
Vonn previously stated she will consult a legal team to challenge the FIS decision.
“I definitely wanted to (race against the men) for quite some time. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple years. It just seemed like this would be the opportune time for me,” said Vonn. “From speaking with the FIS and from the reaction that I got from (the press) and coaches and everyone, I honestly was expecting a more positive outcome than what I got. It was an absolute no; It wasn’t a maybe. … That was tough.”
Vonn went on to say she wants to race the Lake Louise course, in particular, because it’s the only track raced by both the men and women. At any other venue, the men would have a huge advantage, she said.
“I want to see where I stack up, so I’m trying get myself to a place where I’m at an equal playing field, and Lake Louise is that place,” Vonn said. “If it’s not possible in Lake Louise, I would definitely consider another hill that might work.” —Geoff Mintz