Vonn walks away with medal in fi­nal race

The Columbus Dispatch - - 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.

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.

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.

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