Vonn takes aim at single-season win record
Lindsey Vonn’s bruised shin is healed and the Olympic downhill champion has laid down quite a goal for the World Cup ski season that starts next week.Vonn says she wants to break her American single-season record of 11 wins set last year and take aim at the all-time record of 14 victories established by Swiss great Vreni Schneider in 1988-89.”I try to improve every year. Two years ago I had nine wins, last year I had 11, so I want to improve,” Vonn told The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday, already aboard her flight to Europe but a few moments before departing.”Vreni won 14, so it’s definitely possible. I’m just going to go out there and try to win as many races as I can and try to ski my best.”Two other women – Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria and Anja Paerson of Sweden – have also won 11 races in one season, while only Schneider has won more. Among the men, Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden and Hermann Maier of Austria share the mark with 13 victories in one season, while French great Jean-Claude Killy won 12 back in 1967.Vonn will also be aiming for her fourth consecutive overall World Cup title when the 37-race season kicks off with a giant slalom on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 23.After a brief stop in Finland, the women’s circuit comes to North America with races in Aspen, Colorado, and Lake Louise, Alberta, in November and early December.Vonn arrived at the Olympics in Vancouver in February having bruised her right shin in training. The pain was so severe that she struggled to put on a ski boot and worried at one point if she would be able to compete.Resorting to all sorts of therapy, including one that entailed wrapping her leg in topfen – an Austrian curd cheese said to reduce swelling – Vonn still managed to win the downhill and get bronze in the super-G.”It’s doing pretty good now. It didn’t give me too many problems in Chile and New Zealand (where the U.S. Ski Team holds preseason training), so I’m confident that it should be good this season,” Vonn said.Actually, Vonn had a series of injuries last season, including a bruised right knee and a broken right pinkie, but she didn’t require any surgery in the offseason and is ready to race again”A skier’s life is always filled with injuries, so you just got to do the best you can,” she said.Vonn’s husband and chief adviser, Thomas, was sitting right next to her on the flight and will again accompany her throughout the season.Vonn was feted at celebrity events all summer and said the highlights were winning the ESPY for female athlete of the year and filming scenes for her favorite show, “Law & Order.””Those were the two highlights, but the whole summer was filled with highlights,” she said. “It’s definitely been a whirlwind but I had so much fun and really enjoyed everything.”Vonn also walked the red carpet at the Academy of Country Music Awards, shot a series of commercials for her sponsors, attended fundraisers, appeared on Maxim’s “Hot 100″ list and took part in a White House correspondents dinner.In all, she took two months off after last season – more than she’s ever taken off before. Still, in June she traveled to Austria for three weeks of intensive training.”There’s no short cuts when you got to get ready for a new season, but I wanted to come into the summer fresh and take that time off and I think it really helped,” she said. “It let my body heal.”After Austria it was off to Wimbledon to see her favorite tennis player, top-ranked Roger Federer, in action, then came the on-snow camps in Chile and New Zealand.”It was definitely the hardest summer I’ve had so far in fitness training,” Vonn said. “It’s been grueling but hopefully it will show in my skiing.”Vonn could face her steepest challenge yet for the overall title, with a host of prominent skiers returning from injury.Swiss teenager Lara Gut, one of the few racers to challenge Vonn at the world championships in Val d’Isere two seasons ago, is back from a dislocated hip. Nicole Hosp of Austria, the last woman to win the overall title before Vonn, has recovered from a badly damaged right knee, and Vonn’s teammate Julia Mancuso took two silver medals in Vancouver to show she can be a threat again, too.Vonn’s best friend Maria Riesch of Germany figures to be her top rival again.”There’s more competitors each year and every year everyone gets more motivated and keeps working harder,” Vonn said. “It’s going to be a very tough winter but I’m looking forward to it. I look forward to bigger challenges and hopefully I can still defend my titles.”The season’s crowning point will the world championships in Riesch’s hometown of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in February and Vonn is hoping people back home will be watching.”It seems like there are a lot more fans after the Olympics,” she said. “Hopefully there will be more people watching our sport and our sport will continue to grow.”
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