Clink, clink: Vonn walks away with a medal

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - 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 Sun­day 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 been plan­ning on re­tir­ing in De­cem­ber but she re­cently 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.

“She has been busi­ness as usual this whole week, say­ing I’m rac­ing to win,” Karin Kil­dow, Vonn’s sis­ter, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “I was like, ‘Just maybe make it down and maybe stand up.’ But she was like, ‘No, I’m go­ing full out’. She was def­i­nitely in the mind­set to push it and she re­ally did.”

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.

“I ba­si­cally begged him to come here via text, in all caps, many ex­cla­ma­tion points,” Vonn said. “He’s an icon and a leg­end in our sport and he doesn’t re­ally like the spot­light but he de­serves to have it. I was just so grate­ful that he was there. Hon­estly, it’s a per­fect end­ing to my ca­reer.”

The third skier on the course, Vonn had a big smile on her face when she came down with the fastest run to that point. She waved and bowed to the crowd.

Even­tu­ally, Ilka Stuhec of Slove­nia beat Vonn and took gold, de­fend­ing her ti­tle from the 2017 worlds. Stuhec fin­ished 0.23 sec­onds ahead of sil­ver medal­ist Corinne Suter of Switzer­land and 0.49 ahead of Vonn.

“Not many were count­ing on (Vonn) to get the medal in her last race, which makes it even more spe­cial,” Stuhec said. “She has won ev­ery­thing.”

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 Moser-Proell and Chris­tel Cranz.

“Thank You Lind­sey: For­ever A Star,” read one sign po­si­tioned by the side of the course.

Four U.S. flags were in the grand­stand when Vonn came down and there were quite a few cheers when she started her run wear­ing a suit with blue-and-yel­low trim — Swe­den’s col­ors — to honor Sten­mark.

“She re­ally de­serves this send­off from her great ca­reer,” said Eleanor Bodin, a 21-year-old fan from Swe­den who was hold­ing up a sign say­ing “Thank You Lind­sey.”

“She has been my fa­vorite skier since 2008 when I saw her win­ning on tele­vi­sion,” Bodin said. “I was a lit­tle girl sit­ting on the sofa. I just thought what a great skier and in­spi­ra­tion.”

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 .

“I’m look­ing for­ward to just chill­ing out a bit and re­cov­er­ing ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing my mind,” Vonn said. “It’s been a lot to process.

Geisen­berger closes in on an­other World Cup over­all ti­tle

OBERHOF, GER­MANY >> Olympic and world cham­pion Natalie Geisen­berger is on the brink of win­ning her sev­enth con­sec­u­tive World Cup over­all women’s luge ti­tle, after lead­ing a Ger­man sweep of the medals in a race Sun­day.

Geisen­berger was first, Tat­jana Huefner sec­ond and Da­jana Eit­berger third, mark­ing the fourth time that Ger­many has swept the podium in 10 World Cup women’s races this sea­son. Geisen­berger needs only a 16th-place show­ing in the women’s race at Kras­naya Polyana, Rus­sia, in two weeks to clinch yet an­other over­all ti­tle.

Geisen­berger would be­come the sec­ond luge ath­lete to win seven con­sec­u­tive World Cups; Aus­tria’s Markus Prock won the men’s ti­tle seven straight times from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

The top U.S. fin­isher in the women’s race was Sum­mer Britcher, who placed sixth. Britcher main­tained her hold on third place, be­hind Geisen­berger and Ger­many’s Ju­lia Taub­itz, in the women’s over­all sea­son stand­ings.

Italy won the team re­lay Sun­day, with Ger­many sec­ond and Latvia third. The U.S. was sixth.

Amer­i­cans Chock and Bates win ice danc­ing at Four Con­ti­nents

ANAHEIM >> Madi­son Chock and Evan Bates of the United States cap­tured the first ma­jor in­ter­na­tional ti­tle of their ca­reer Sun­day, win­ning the ice danc­ing com­pe­ti­tion at the Four Con­ti­nents Fig­ure Skat­ing Cham­pi­onships.

Chock and Bates, who were sec­ond at the U.S. Fig­ure Skat­ing Cham­pi­onships two weeks ago, scored

126.25 points dur­ing their free dance, which was to a med­ley of Elvis Pres­ley tunes. They fin­ished with

207.42 points to edge Cana­di­ans Kait­lyn Weaver and An­drew Poje, who to­taled

203.93 points. Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier were third. Two-time U.S. cham­pi­ons Madi­son Hubbell and Zach Dono­hue led after the rhythm dance but fin­ished fourth after hav­ing an il­le­gal lift on the open­ing com­po­nent of their free dance. Amer­i­cans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, the reign­ing Four Con­ti­nents cham­pi­ons, were fifth.


Third place fin­isher Lind­sey Vonn cel­e­brates on the podium after the women’s down­hill race, at the alpine ski World Cham­pi­onships in Are, Swe­den, Sun­day.

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