June 20, 2018
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Even without men’s race, Lindsey Vonn faces milestones

By Eric Willemsen, The Associated Press

SOELDEN, Austria — Lindsey Vonn doesn’t like her chances of racing against men at next month’s downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta.

On Friday, the four-time overall World Cup champion’s plan was still awaiting backing from her U.S. ski team and, ultimately, approval by the International Ski Federation.

“From what I’ve heard, it doesn’t look good,” Vonn said. “But I must wait.”

Vonn earlier announced she would back down on her plan if FIS does not allow her a start in two women’s races at the same course after doing the men’s downhill there a week before.

FIS has to make an exception as the rules deny skiers access to a course a week before the actual race to prevent them from having an advantage.

Vonn says she will miss two women’s races in Aspen, Colo., because they clash with the Lake Louise men’s race on the same Nov. 24-25 weekend. She’s reluctant to skip even more events as she is chasing several records in the new World Cup season, which starts on Saturday with a giant slalom.

“The women’s races are much more important to me,” Vonn said. “The overall World Cup, the downhill globe, these are very important to me.”

Her team has one week left to file a formal request with FIS, which could then decide on the matter at a Nov. 3-4 meeting in Oberhofen, Switzerland.

Spokesman Doug Haney said the U.S. team was still contemplating the best way to support Vonn’s plan. Officials are reluctant for their biggest women’s star to miss Aspen, the only women’s World Cup in the United States.

If Vonn’s wish is denied, she will keep chasing what she calls “a dream of mine.” Last week, she revealed her ambition to race at the Streif in Kitzbuehel, one of the most challenging courses on the men’s circuit, after her retirement.

“I have discussed racing against men with my coaches and friends for years,” she said. “For me, that is the next level. Men race with so much strength and more pace. I want to try it one time. One time.”

Even if her ambition to race against men isn’t fulfilled soon, Vonn has a World Cup season full of milestones ahead.

Vonn, who has 53 World Cup titles, is closing in on retired all-time leaders Vreni Schneider of Switzerland with 55 victories and Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria with 62.

Also, Vonn needs just three podium finishes to become the first skier from outside Europe to reach 100 and follow Moser-Proell (114), Austria’s Renate Goetschl (110) and Schneider (101).

Vonn must win at least one World Cup discipline title to overtake Moser-Proell’s best mark of 16 crystal globes. And if that one happened to be the downhill title, Vonn would become the first female skier to win the title in skiing’s fastest discipline for six straight years.

“I was born with hunger for success,” Vonn said. “I always want to race faster, that’s in me, that gives me motivation each new season. That’s me.”

By winning the season-opening GS at the Rettenbach glacier last year, Vonn became only the fifth female skier to win a race in all five Alpine disciplines.

With new rules for size and radius of GS skis taking effect this weekend, all racers are eager to find out how well they’ve adapted to them during offseason practices.

“I am not sure how fast I am on the new skis under the new rules,” Vonn said. “At the moment, I feel good on the new skis but I am not sure if I am very fast or not.”

Her friend and main rival for many seasons, Maria Hoefl-Riesch, expected nothing less than another dominant year by Vonn.

“If Lindsey keeps racing like last year, I can’t see anyone beating her,” said Hoefl-Riesch, the only other racer to take the women’s overall title in the past five years. The German beat Vonn by a mere three points in 2011.

Hoefl-Riesch’s pessimism on beating Vonn was not shared by Tina Maze, the Slovenian who finished the overall standings fourth in 2010, third in 2011 and second this year.

“My goal is clear, I want to be the No. 1 this time,” Maze said. “There have been some changes with the new skis. Let’s see how Lindsey is doing on them. If I thought I could not beat her, I wouldn’t be here.”

Apart from the World Cup, the season will be highlighted by February’s world championships in Schladming, Austria.

Vonn said she was looking forward to bouncing back after her disappointing showing at the 2011 worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Vonn was concussed before the event, picked up just a sole silver medal as she was beaten for the downhill title by Austria’s Elisbeth Goergl, and left the championships early.

“Garmisch was a bad championship for me, with the injury and whole media circus,” Vonn said. “It was not good. I hope to do better in Schladming.”

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