Vonn’s fi­nal charge for hal­lowed record

En­ters fi­nal World Cup sea­son with body and legacy in­tact, but all-time mark is within sight

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - PAT GRA­HAM THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

On her farewell tour, Lind­sey Vonn vows to dine out even more with her U.S. team­mates, have an oc­ca­sional glass of wine with long­time ri­vals/friends and take plenty of pho­tos.

One quick caveat, though, as she sa­vors the sights and sounds dur­ing her last go-around: Come race day, Vonn will of course be Vonn.

At ease with her de­ci­sion to re­tire fol­low­ing the sea­son, she’s ready to charge af­ter his­tory — balky right knee and all.

The 34-year-old ski racer en­ters the sea­son with 82 World Cup vic­to­ries, leav­ing her five away from break­ing the record held by Inge­mar Sten­mark of Swe­den.

“As much as I’m go­ing to soak this sea­son in, I’m still out there to win. I’m never go­ing to be in the start­ing gate to just check out the scenery,” said Vonn, whose sea­son kicks off in Lake Louise, Alta., with a pair of down­hill races and a su­per-G be­gin­ning on Nov. 30. “I’m very goal-ori­ented. That won’t be any dif­fer­ent.”

She said there’s zero chance she re- turns even if she fin­ishes just shy of break­ing Sten­mark’s achieve­ment.

“I can’t phys­i­cally do it — un­less some­thing mirac­u­lously hap­pens in sci­ence,” said Vonn, who lives in Vail, Colo. “I’m happy with what I’ve done. No mat­ter what hap­pens, it’s def­i­nitely go­ing to be my last sea­son.”

Once she steps away from rac­ing, she has other plans to keep her oc­cu­pied. Like pos­si­bly open­ing a busi­ness, per­haps a beauty line. Or tak­ing in more hockey games, with her boyfriend, P.K. Sub­ban, a de­fence­man for the Nash­ville Preda­tors. She also hasn’t ruled out the pos­si­bil­ity of a broad­cast­ing ca­reer.

“I’m ready for the next chap­ter. It’s not be­cause I want to be — I’m ready be­cause it has to be,” Vonn said af­ter a train­ing ses­sion at the U.S. ski team’s

speed cen­tre at Cop­per Moun­tain. “The risk just doesn’t out­weigh the re­ward any­more. I would like to be able to ski recre­ation­ally in 10 years and if I have chil­dren, be able to ski with them ... It came to the point where it was time to say good­bye.”

As she dis­cussed her in­juries, Vonn pat­ted her trou­ble­some right knee. Her dog, Lucy, sat on her lap with a ban­dage — duct tape, ac­tu­ally — on her right front paw fol­low­ing a re­cent ac­ci­dent.

Over her dis­tin­guished ca­reer, Vonn’s had a long list of ail­ments: ACL re­con­struc­tions, frac­tures near her left knee joint, bruised shin, bro­ken an­kle, bro­ken arm, sliced right thumb and countless con­cus­sions.

She joked that her re­la­tion­ship with ski­ing is “tough love.”

Still, she said the sport helped her through some tough times, like her di­vorce from Thomas Vonn or her split with Tiger Woods.

“Ski­ing al­ways helps me get over it emo­tion­ally. It’s al­ways been my es­cape,” said Vonn, whose first World Cup start was Nov. 18, 2000, in a slalom race. “My in­juries, while painful and dif­fi­cult, still were an im­por­tant les­son and taught me a lot about my­self and what I’m ca­pa­ble of.”

Com­ing up through the ranks, Vonn never con­tem­plated break­ing Sten­mark’s record of 86. It was just too far out there.

She earned a gold medal in the down­hill and a bronze in the su­per-G at the 2010 Van­cou­ver Games, along with a down­hill bronze at the Pyeongchang Olympics last Fe­bru­ary. She missed the 2014 Sochi Games due to her right knee.

“It was re­ally about the Olympics,” she said. “The suc­cess I’ve had on the World Cup level has been so much more than I ever thought was pos­si­ble.”

In Jan­uary 2015, Vonn broke the women’s World Cup mark of 62 vic­to­ries that be­longed to An­nemarie Moser-Proell of Aus­tria. It was quite an ac­com­plish­ment, but the queries quickly turned to this: Can Vonn catch Sten­mark?

“I’m like, ‘Can we talk about break­ing the women’s record for one se­cond be­fore we move on to some­thing else I have to do?’ ” Vonn said. “I didn’t re­ally think it was pos­si­ble un­til I hit maybe 76 (wins). Be­fore that, it was mostly just talk­ing to the me­dia and deal­ing with ev­ery­one else’s ex­pec­ta­tions. Any­thing could hap­pen in ski rac­ing and 63 wins to 86 is a re­ally long way, so it’s hard to even think that far ahead.

“Un­til now, I haven’t re­ally fo­cused on Sten­mark’s record.” It’s within sight. “A huge story,” said Nor­way’s Ak­sel Lund Svin­dal, who has 35 World Cup wins. “It’s the record in alpine ski­ing that peo­ple thought was un­break­able and she’s prob­a­bly go­ing to break it.”

For the mo­ment, Vonn’s mis­sion re­mains sim­ple: Soak in the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence.

“In­stead of al­ways be­ing in the ho­tel room and su­per-fo­cused on the race the next day, I’m ac­tu­ally go­ing out to din­ner with the team and do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent,” Vonn said. “I’m re­ally en­joy­ing it and not just hav­ing it be a job. I love the job, don’t get me wrong. But there’s also a level of, ‘I need to chill a lit­tle bit.’

“I’m 34. I’m ready to chill.”

“My in­juries, while painful and dif­fi­cult, still were an im­por­tant les­son.” LIND­SEY VONN ALPINE SKIER

Lind­sey Vonn needs five World Cup vic­to­ries dur­ing her fi­nal sea­son to be­come the all-time win­ningest ski racer.

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