The Associated PressARE, Sweden (AP) — Lindsey Vonn walked off with her career haul of medals in her right hand, the golds, silvers and bronzes 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.
The bronze medal 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.
Vonn became the first female skier to win medals at six different world championships. It’s also her fifth world downhill medal, matching the record established by Annemarie Moser-Proell and Christel Cranz.
Pinturault claims combined
ARE, Sweden (AP) — With the Alpine combined possibly getting axed from major skiing championships, Alexis Pinturault had one final chance to assert his long-time dominance of the event.
He didn’t waste it.
The French skier produced the second-fastest slalom leg to rise from 24th place after the downhill portion and win by 0.24 seconds at the world championships on Monday.
It was Pinturault’s first individual gold medal at a major championship.
This was a day for the slalom specialists in the combined — no change there, then — with the top six all preferring the shorter and more technical leg. Stefan Hadalin of Slovenia came second in a big shock and Marco Schwarz of Austria took bronze, 0.46 behind Pinturault.
And that perhaps explains why the combined is under threat as the International Ski Federation decides on the future of Alpine skiing’s original Olympic discipline. FIS could replace Alpine combined with parallel slalom racing at future Olympics and world championships.Speech