Vonn takes bronze in last race of ca­reer

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Sports -

ARE, Swe­den — One last come­back com­plete. One last medal.

Five days af­ter crash­ing in su­per-G, Lind­sey Vonn bounced back to win the bronze medal in the world cham­pi­onship down­hill Sun­day in the fi­nal race of her ca­reer.

“I laid it all on the line. That’s all I wanted to do to­day,” Vonn said. “I have to ad­mit I was a lit­tle bit ner­vous, prob­a­bly the most ner­vous I’ve ever been in my life. I wanted to fin­ish strong so badly.”

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.

“She has been busi­ness as usual this whole week, say­ing I’m rac­ing to win,” said Karin Kil­dow, Vonn’s sis­ter. “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.”

When Vonn crossed the fin­ish line she had a big smile on her face, waved and bowed to the crowd.

“I had a re­ally hard time con­trol­ling my nerves and I never have a hard time with that. I’m just happy I made it to the fin­ish and I came down in the lead, which was nice for my last race,” Vonn said.

“I’m also safe. I made it down safely. My boyfriend and my fam­ily are happy.”

Vonn had been plan­ning on re­tir­ing in De­cem­ber but she re­cently moved up her re­tire­ment plans due to per­sis­tent pain in both of her sur­gi­cally re­paired knees. She then crashed in Tues­day’s su­per-G, com­ing away with a black eye and a bruised rib.

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

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

“I’m happy that I could fin­ish strong. I’m happy there are so many peo­ple here,” Vonn said. “I wish my mom and my brother and my sis­ter could be here, but half the fam­ily is here so that’s good. I soaked it all in. I waved to the crowd one last time. Inge­mar be­ing in the fin­ish area was lit­er­ally the best thing that’s ever hap­pened in my life.”

Ilka Stuhec of Slove­nia de­fended her ti­tle from the 2017 worlds, fin­ish­ing 0.23 sec­onds ahead of Corinne Suter of Switzer­land and 0.49 ahead of Vonn.

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

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.”

One Ital­ian com­peti­tor bent down to the snow at Vonn’s feet when Vonn was still in the leader’s throne.

At 34 years and 115 days old, Vonn also be­came the old­est woman to win a medal at a worlds, eclips­ing the record set by Veronika Velez-Zuzulova in the mixed team event in 2017 at 32 and 214 days old.

While it was snow­ing heav­ily three hours be­fore the race, the skies cleared up quickly. How­ever, fog and wind forced or­ga­niz­ers to shorten the course to the se­cond re­serve start.

A shorter course fa­vored Vonn, as it re­duced the strain on both of her sur­gi­cally re­paired knees.

“It re­ally helped me to start lower down,” Vonn said.

“The up­per sec­tion was a bit bumpy and with my knee it’s re­ally hard on the body. I knew I had a good chance and thank­fully right be­fore I went, ex­act op­po­site of the su­per-G, the sun came out. I was like, this is it. This is my day. I just charged. I gave it ev­ery­thing I have like al­ways. I put the nerves aside and just en­joyed it. I love go­ing fast. It was a per­fect day for down­hill.”

“I’m happy that I could fin­ish strong. I’m happy there are so many peo­ple here. I wish my mom and my brother and my sis­ter could be here, but half the fam­ily is here so that’s good. I soaked it all in. I waved to the crowd one last time.” Lind­sey Vonn

Vonn

AP/GABRIELE FACCIOTTI

Lind­sey Vonn of the United States shows her bronze medal af­ter the fi­nal race of her ca­reer at the women’s down­hill race Sun­day at the alpine ski world cham­pi­onships in Are, Swe­den.

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