SOELDEN, Austria — After losing the overall World Cup title, being labeled a bad loser and falling out with friend and rival Maria Hoefl-Riesch, Lindsey Vonn says she has learned from her mistakes and has a new outlook going into the Alpine ski season.
Last season ended in multiple disappointments for Vonn, who says she has put her problems on and off the slopes behind her just days ahead of the start of the new campaign — a World Cup giant slalom on the Rettenbach glacier on Saturday.
“Looking back to the season you can see where you made mistakes and definitely learn from those mistakes,” the American three-time overall World Cup champion told The Associated Press in an interview.
“I put the past behind me and I am looking forward to the new season. Life is the same. It’s the same story — you have to try to win races. You learn from the past but you have to stay in the future and the present as well.”
Vonn missed out on a fourth straight overall title as she was narrowly beaten to the crown by Hoefl-Riesch. The German clinched her first title by just three points — 1,728 to 1,725.
The intriguing relationship as rivals and best friends between the two leading female ski racers changed drastically after Hoefl-Riesch blamed Vonn for not congratulating her on the overall victory, while the American decided to stay away from the German’s wedding in April.
Vonn and Hoefl-Riesch finally spoke to each other again in an attempt to clear the air in August while training with their respective national teams in New Zealand.
“At the moment it’s OK,” Vonn said. “We talked through everything in New Zealand. We both took the decision not to talk about our friendship in public anymore. That was useless last year. We will focus on ski racing again and not discuss these matters. It’s OK.”
Riesch-Hoefl said “our opinions are still different but Lindsey has acknowledged certain things and that’s the end of that story for me … We will focus on our sports now. Lindsey is to me a rival like all others.”
Vonn received some criticism for the way she dealt with her mild concussion during February’s world championships — held in Hoefl-Riesch’s hometown of Garmisch-Partenkirchen — especially when she completed a training run wearing a puffy jacket and snow pants instead of a race suit.
And weeks later, after Vonn lost the overall title, many in the media labeled her a sore loser. The criticism hurt her, she admitted.
“I can’t control what people say about me,” Vonn said. “It was definitely disappointing, some of the articles that came out. I don’t think they were very fair or true. But all I can do is be myself, be a sports person, try to represent our sport well.”
Vonn said not being the overall champion going into a new season for the first time in three years does not make a lot of difference. She now will be the hunter, not the hunted.
“I am still after the same thing, that is to ski fast, and try to win as many races as I can,” she said.
However, Vonn admitted to having a slightly different approach to the technical events, willing to take more risks instead of skiing to avoid possibly crashing out.
“Last year at the end of the season I skied with no regrets, just trying to ski as fast as I can and no matter if I go out or not,” Vonn said. “That’s the kind of attitude that I want to take this year … Not worrying about the points and not worrying about finishing. In the long run that will definitely help me.”
Vonn was reluctant to make any predictions for the upcoming season, in which she will be defending three discipline titles — downhill, super-G and super-combined.
“I feel good, I feel ready for the season,” she said. “Last year I learned a lot about tactics and about trying to get a better start to the season … It’s kind of hard to say where you stand until you have the first race.
“I am not focused on the results this weekend. I am just trying to have two good runs. At the same time, GS is my weakest point so my first real test will be in Lake Louise (in November) for the first speed races of the year.”