Vonn shows her medal in fi­nal race

Boston Herald - - SPORTS -

ARE, Swe­den — Lind­sey Vonn walked off with her ca­reer haul of medals in her right hand, the gold, sil­ver and bronze clink­ing to­gether al­most weigh­ing her down.

Or was it the bulging knee braces and metal sup­port rods in­side her vast ar­ray of bro­ken bones?

What­ever it was, the sound was a re­minder of what Vonn has come to sym­bol­ize — an ath­lete who bat­tled back from one ma­jor in­jury af­ter an­other through­out her ca­reer to win more ski races than any other woman.

Add one more — fi­nal — come­back to the list.

Five days af­ter crash­ing in su­per-G — a fall that knocked the wind out of her and left her with a black eye and a bruised rib — and three months af­ter tear­ing a lig­a­ment in her left knee, Vonn won the bronze medal in the world cham­pi­onship down­hill yes­ter­day in the fi­nal race of her ca­reer.

She’s shed so many tears that there are none left — just like she no longer has any car­ti­lage in her knees.

“I’m lit­er­ally tapped out, I can’t cry any­more,” Vonn said. “I want to cry but it’s dry . ... It’s not an easy thing to feel your bones hit­ting to­gether and con­tinue to push through it.

“Of course I’m sore. Even be­fore the crash I was sore. So I’m just sore on top of sore. My neck is killing me,” Vonn said. “But at the end of the day no one cares if my neck hurts; they only care if I win . ... I knew that I was ca­pa­ble of push­ing through the pain one last time and I did that . ... Ev­ery ath­lete has their own ob­sta­cles and I faced mine head on to­day and I con­quered them.”

Vonn had planned to in De­cem­ber but she moved up her plans due to per­sis­tent pain in both of her sur­gi­cally re­paired knees. Then came the su­per-G crash, when she strad­dled a gate in midair, flew face first down the moun­tain and slammed into the safety nets.

It’s a medal that brings Vonn full cir­cle: the Amer­i­can’s two sil­vers at the 2007 worlds on the same course in Are were the first two ma­jor cham­pi­onship medals of her ca­reer.

“I was weigh­ing in my mind the risk of putting it all out there, crash­ing and get­ting in­jured again, as op­posed to fin­ish­ing where I wanted to,” Vonn said. “It was an in­ter­nal bat­tle.”

As soon as she ex­ited the fin­ish area, Vonn em­braced Swedish great Inge­mar Sten­mark, the only skier to win more World Cup races than she did — 86 to 82.

Vonn be­came the first fe­male skier to win medals at six dif­fer­ent world cham­pi­onships. It’s also her fifth down­hill medal at a worlds, match­ing the record es­tab­lished by An­nemarie MoserProell and Chris­tel Cranz.

At 34, Vonn eclipsed her own record from two years ago for old­est woman to win a medal at a worlds.

Fog and wind forced or­ga­niz­ers to shorten the course to the se­cond re­serve start, which fa­vored Vonn be­cause it re­duced the strain on her knees.

Now she can fi­nally let her body heel and move onto the next phase of her life — pos­si­bly act­ing, hav­ing chil­dren, start­ing a busi­ness .

“The nice thing is that, in the real world I’m ac­tu­ally pretty young. I have felt re­ally old for a long time, be­cause I’m rac­ing with girls that are like 15 years younger than me. So now, in the real world, I’m nor­mal. Thirty is the new 20 so I’m su­per young. I’ve got a lot to look for­ward to.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

SPOILS OF VIC­TORY: Lind­sey Vonn shows off her medals af­ter the fi­nal race of her ca­reer yester in Are, Swe­den.

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