Lindsey Vonn begins her final season in Cortina D’Ampezzo on Friday, ready to take in the “beautiful” scene from the top of the Olympia delle Tofane course as she prepares her onslaught on the alpine skiing World Cup win record.
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“There’s nothing quite like it when you go to the top of the chairlift and the sun is rising and it’s kind of orange and red and you can see the whole valley,” Vonn said.
“I love the whole course top to bottom, it’s one of the most beautiful sights in the world.”
Vonn begins her injury-hit final season in the Italian Dolomites, where she first stood on the podium in 2004, as she targets Ingemar Stenmark’s long-time record of 86 World Cup wins.
The American, who is four behind Stenmark on 82, will compete in downhill races on Friday and Saturday and the super-G on Sunday, to kick off her season after injuring her knee in a training crash last November.
Friday’s downhill replaces the race in St Anton in Austria last weekend which was called off due to heavy snowfall.
So instead the 34-year-old returns in Italy where she has racked up 12 World Cup wins — six downhill and six super G.
One of her five World Cup wins last season was the downhill in Cortina before taking Olympic bronze in South Korea.
The only place Vonn has won more is in Lake Louise, where she has 18 victories and where she will bring the curtain down on her career later this year, and she warned there will be no holds barred as she chases Stenmark’s record.
“My lack of fear is what has caused me to crash so many times. So that calculation of risk is different now, because this is my last season,” she said.
“I’m just going to go out there and ski like I did when I won my first podium here and whatever happens, happens. If I break the record then I will be very excited. If I don’t then I don’t.
“Maybe I’m not 100 percent healthy but I am definitely 100 percent strong.”
– ‘Finding balance’ –
US teammate Mikaela Shiffrin — also going for a record of World Cup wins in one season — will skip the downhill races in Cortina and instead focus on Saturday’s Super G.
“Tough decision, but as one of the only remaining athletes skiing in all 6 disciplines, I have to find balance, (which can be tricky),” the 23-year-old said on Twitter.
Shiffrin leads the World Cup standings in giant slalom, slalom and Super G.
The double defending World Cup overall champion continued her incredibly rich vein of form with her 53rd World Cup victory in Kronplatz’s giant slalom on Tuesday.
Vonn said she was intrigued to see by how far Shiffrin could push her success.
She currently has 10 wins this season with Marcel Hirscher on nine as they both close in on Swiss skier Vreni Schneider’s 30-year-old record of 14 wins in a single campaign.
“She’s skiing so well. I’m interested to see how many wins she’s going to break,” said Vonn.
“Without a doubt she or Marcel will break the record. There’s really no end to what she can accomplish it’s just about staying healthy.
“I’m very excited like everybody to see what she can accomplish in the coming seasons and this season as well.”
Home hopes have been hit with Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia still not recovered from a fractured right ankle.
“I’ll miss the fact that she will not be there on my return, she is my strongest opponent but there are many others to keep an eye on like Ilka Stuhec, Tina Weirather and Nicole Schmidhofer,” said Vonn.
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