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Category: Skiing

U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn out of Thursday's giant slalom

Lindsey Vonn American Lindsey Vonn, winner of the super-G and Monday's downhill at the world championships in France, is out of tomorrow's giant slalom, the U.S. ski team announced.

Vonn had surgery Tuesday to repair an injury to her right thumb and will have more treatment on that thumb in order to be better prepared for Saturday's slalom.

Giant slalom is the weakest event for Vonn, who never has made a World Cup podium in the discipline.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Lindsey Vonn, post surgery. Credit: Kerstin Joensson / Associated Press

Lindsey Vonn undergoes surgery to repair tendon damage

U.S. ski queen Lindsey Vonn's participation in Thursday's world championship giant slalom is in doubt after she underwent surgery in Austria to repair tendon damage to her right thumb, which she cut while opening a celebratory bottle of champagne Monday.

Vonn, who won the world championship downhill Monday in Val d'Isere, France, flew by private jet Tuesday to Innsbruck, where she underwent surgery at Privatklinik Hochrum, according to the U.S. ski team.

She was remain overnight in Austria and return to Val d'Isere Wednesday.

"The surgery went fine" said U.S. ski team doctor Richard Quincy. "She will have a splint and should be able to grip her ski pole. We anticipate she will be ready to compete in Saturday's slalom and possibly the giant slalom Thursday."

"Everything went really well and I couldn't be more thankful for the care that I've received," said Vonn, who has won gold medals in super G and downhill in Val d'Isere. "The support I've received from my fans has been awesome and I'm looking forward returning to Worlds and challenging for another medal."

Vonn was driven from Val d'Isere to Geneva, Switzerland, where she met a plane supplied by her sponsor, Red Bull.

-- Philip Hersh

Lindsey Vonn in stitches after gold medal celebration

Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn made it down the mountain at an average speed of 50 mph with no problem on Monday.

The celebration of her world title in the downhill several hours later was a bit more dangerous.

Vonn needed four stitches in her right thumb after cutting it while opening a Champagne bottle Monday night in Val d'Isere, France.

"I really think I'm safer skiing 85 miles per hour,"  Vonn said. "I'm in a little bit of pain, but this shouldn't slow me down."

Vonn's next race is the giant slalom on Thursday.

Any pain from the cut would probably be more of a factor during Saturday's slalom, because racers routinely whack their hands on gates in slalom races.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Lindsey Vonn celebrates after posting the fastest time in the women's downhill at the alpine skiing world championships in Val d'Isere, France, on Monday. Credit: Fel / Presse Sports via US Presswire

Bode Miller fails to finish in men's Super Combined


U.S. skier Bode Miller needed only a relatively conservative slalom run late this afternoon to win the gold in the men's Super Combined at the world championships in Val d'Isere, France, but instead missed a gate midway down the course and failed to finish.

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, meanwhile, held onto his lead from the downhill leg to win the third world title of his career. France's Julien Lizeroux was second.

Stay tuned to Fabulous Forum and to for more coverage of the world championships.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Bode Miller struggles to keep his balance during the Super Combined race. He missed a gate and did not complete the race. Credit: Alessandro Trovati / Associated Press

Lindsey Vonn wins second gold, makes more history


She was bummed after learning she had missed a gate in the Super Combined slalom Saturday after a finish that apparently had won a silver medal.

She was bummed about the one-day delay in the women's downhill caused by relentless snow Sunday.

But it is a mark of just how confident Lindsey Vonn has become that she simply shrugged that off and put together a flawless run today to win the downhill title at the world championships in Val d'Isere, France.

"It was a tough day for me,'' Vonn said.  "We've had two days off, and I have kind of been thinking about the Super Combined, being disqualified there.

"I was actually really nervous in the start, but my husband was there, and he really calmed me down and got me in the right mood for fighting and attacking. That's what I did.''

It gave Vonn another place in the history books as the first U.S. woman to win more than one gold medal in a stand-alone worlds since the event began in 1931. (Andrea Mead Lawrence won two golds at the Olympics in 1952, when the Olympics counted as a worlds.) [The year of Andrea Mead Lawrence's double gold win was corrected at 2:30 p.m.]

It also tied Vonn, who won two silvers in 2007, with Tamara McKinney as the most decorated U.S. woman in worlds history (four medals).

"I live for a moment like today,'' she said after joining former U.S. skiers Picabo Street (1996) and Hilary Lindh (1997) as world downhill champions.

Meanwhile, Bode Miller put himself in contention for a medal in the Super Combined today with one of his typically hair-raising downhill runs. Miller somehow kept himself on the course at the top to finish just 4/100ths behind Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.

France's Jean-Baptiste Grange, the World Cup slalom leader this season, was expected to be the leading challenger to Svindal and Vonn in the slalom leg later today after losing just 1.4 seconds in the downhill.

On a women's downhill course with just two compression bumps and little chance to glide in a tuck, Vonn's extraordinary ability to find the right line and hit the turns perfectly made the difference.

She finished .52 seconds ahead of Lara Gut, the 17-year-old Swiss phenom, and .57 ahead of Nadia Fanchini of Italy.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Lindsay Vonn. Credit: Pool photo / Getty Images

Lindsey Vonn wins world title

Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn of the United States won the World Championships Super-G on Tuesday in Val d'Isère, France, with a time of 1 minute, 20.73 seconds. She screamed for joy when she saw the time.

Vonn finished 34/100ths of a second ahead of France's Marie Marchand-Arvier. It is Vonn's first gold medal in her three world meets.

"It's a pretty darn good feeling,'' Vonn said after the race. "It gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of these championships and the next Olympics.  I haven't had great results in the past two Olympic Games or world championships. I learned today I can do it under pressure.''

Her performance was more impressive on a difficult course with conditions that had deteriorated considerably by the time Vonn started (21st in the racing order). Three of the top five finishers were among the first five starters, and 16 of the 55 starters failed to finish.  Vonn, 25, who has entered all five events, next races in Friday's Super-Combined.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Lindsey Vonn of the United States, center, celebrates after winning the women's Super G competion at the Alpine World Ski Championship in Val d'Isère, France, on Tuesday. Marie Marchand-Arvier of France, left, was second, and Andrea Fischbacher of Austria took third. Credit: Helmut Fohringer / European Pressphoto Agency

Philip Hersh: Lindsey Vonn could be greatest U.S. women's skier

Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn is on the verge of being recognized as the greatest women’s skier in U.S. history.

You could have seen this coming four years ago, until Vonn hit a speed bump a lot bigger than the molehill outside Minneapolis where she learned to ski. It was a year before the last Olympics, when Vonn –- then Lindsey Kildow  –- went into the world championships as the 20-year-old sensation who was chewing up the world’s gnarliest downhill courses.

But there was too much going on in her head then. Vonn felt not only the pressure of sudden expectations but the emotional tension of a strained relationship with her father, who had managed her career so closely he often crossed the line between support and stage managing.

(Amateur psychology, 101:  Alan Kildow was struggling to deal with the idea that her boyfriend, Thomas Vonn, a former World Cup skier, was playing an increasingly important role in Lindsey’s life. The couple was married on Sept. 29, 2007).

So Vonn finished 9th in her first race at those 2005 worlds, fled the media to go cry in her hotel room, then graciously came down an hour later to talk with me and a couple other U.S. reporters who had made the trip to Italy.

Then she finished fourth in her next race. And fourth again in her final race.  She came to talk with the media, broke down in tears, walked away, then returned for questions she answered with a muffled sob or a forced laugh.

"Tears can only speak for me," Vonn said.

Fast forward to now, the year before the Vancouver Games, and you find a confident, celebrated Vonn heading into the biennial world championships that began Tuesday in Val d'lsere, France with the women’s Super-G.

She could win that race.

She could also win the downhill, the combined and the slalom.

Or she could come away without a gold medal, so unpredictable are ski results in events like the world championships and Olympics, so demanding is it for her to ski all five disciplines in the next 12 days.

Lindsey Vonn "I’ve gotten a handle on media and expectations," she said last week. "But I’m pretty hard on myself. I expect a lot from myself. I would like to win a gold medal as much as other people would like to have me win one.  There’s definitely a little pressure."

It was a triumph for her just to compete at the 2006 Olympics after a horrific crash in downhill training. Talk about getting back on the horse: she skied all five events, finishing eighth in the downhill.

In 2007, she broke the world meet jinx with silvers in downhill and Super-G. Then came winning the World Cup overall title last year. That proved to Vonn she had the consistency to be a contender in every race –- and the ability to handle the tension of having the battle for the title go down to the penultimate race.

"The final week of last season was incredibly difficult," she said. "But I has some of my best results that week.  The experience definitely matured me in a lot of ways."

That showed when she hit a rough patch in mid-December after getting this World Cup season off to a fast start. Vonn rebounded with stunning results in the past two weeks and arrived at the worlds (via private jet provided by Red Bull, one of her sponsors) having won the last two World Cup races.

Her five victories this season have tied Vonn with Tamara McKinney atop the all-time victory list (18) for U.S. skiers on the World Cup.  Last year, Vonn passed Picabo Street as the all-time U.S. leader in World Cup downhill wins.

This season, Vonn also has revitalized the gate-skiing roots she established years ago on the 310-foot vertical drop of Buck Hill in Minnesota by winning her first two World Cup slaloms.

Her closest rival in the World Cup standings, Germany’s Maria Riesch, virtually conceded this year’s title to Vonn -– with 12 races to go! -– after she opened a nearly 200-point lead with victories in slalom and Super-G last weekend.

Vonn is a one-woman army for the U.S. team in Val d’Isere.  In 22 World Cup races this season, she has nine podium finishes; no teammate has any.  She has another eight top-10 finishes; the rest of the team has three.

A win next year on the Olympic slopes of Whistler, B.C. would leave her no peer among U.S. women skiers, present and past.

"I can’t help but dream about what Whistler could be," she said.

She is a woman on the verge of a nerveless breakthrough.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo (top): Lindsey Vonn celebrates winning the women's Super G race on Sunday. Credit: Mitch Gunn-US PRESSWIRE

Photo (inset): Lindsey Vonn. Credit: Olivier Morin / AFP / Getty Images

Swiss skier Daniel Albrecht badly injured in training crash


Swiss skier Daniel Albrecht, winner of four World Cup titles, was badly injured today after crashing during a training run in Kitzbuehel, Austria. He is reported to be in an induced coma.

Albrecht, who was preparing for this weekend's World Cup race, lost control and flew through the air quite a distance before landing on his back, according to witnesses.

He was airlifted by helicopter to a local hospital. Here is a video of Albrecht in a race in December.

-- Debbie Goffa

Photo: Daniel Albrecht looses control while training in Austria. Credit: Giovanni Auletta / Associated Press

Michelle Kwan graduates -- and some figure skating talent surfaces

Michelle Kwan

In the better-late-than-never department:

What with the holidays and spending some vacation time in a place where the only ice was in my soft drinks, I never got around to commenting on the following wintry matters.

1. Congratulations to two-time Olympic medalist and five-time world champion Michelle Kwan on completing what she jokingly referred to as her "10-year plan" for college. Kwan, who took her first college courses at UCLA in the fall of 1999, was graduated from the University of Denver in November with a major in international studies, a minor in political science and grades good enough to consider applying to some of the country's elite graduate programs in international relations.

Last week, she was named to the President's Council on Physical Fitness, and she has dropped some hints about performing again.

2. It was a PG-13 show at the recent Russian Figure Skating Championships.

The top two finishers in the senior women's (????) division are too young for not only the 2010 Olympics and the next two senior world championships -- but this year's junior world championships.

Winner Adelina Sotnikova and runner-up Elizaveta Tuktamisheva were 12 years old during the event. Tuktamisheva had finished 10th a year earlier at age 11. The two clearly are being fast-tracked for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

For the record, Kwan was 12 when she competed in her first senior nationals  -- and finished sixth against much tougher competition than the Russians faced. She went on to win a record-tying nine U.S. titles.

3. Two years ago, Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal won the World Cup overall title and, at 24, looked like alpine skiing's next great star. Last winter, Svindal was injured so badly during a training run that some felt he might never again compete.

This season, Svindal is making one of the most impressive comebacks in sports, with two World Cup wins on the same Beaver Creek, Colo., slopes where he crashed. Despite some recent

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Airing some thoughts on the 2010 Winter Games

The Alberta Clipper is about to bring its big chill to Chicago, and the Canadian air leads to thoughts of the Great White North (Eh?), which leads to thoughts of the next Winter Olympics, which are in Vancouver, even if that city's climate usually is more temperate than our soon-to-be frozen tundra.

Which is a long-winded way of saying it's a good time to check in on the winter sports scene.
Ten things I know, and you should, 13 months before the 2010 opening ceremony:      

1. Rarely has the singles competition at a U.S. figure skating championship been as hard to handicap as it is at the 2009 event in Cleveland later this month.  There are three 

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Lindsey Vonn is on her way in skiing's World Cup

Lindsey Vonn

OVER THE ATLANTIC -- Shared a row on a flight to Germany this week with Lindsey Vonn.

We were each on a business trip.

She put the tools of her trade, a pair of rust-colored Rossignol ski boots, into the overhead bin -- next to the bag with my laptop.

She was 12J, I was 12H.

She was beef, I was fish.

She is the reigning alpine World Cup overall champion. I write about her frequently during the ski season.
She is off to a great start this year, with two wins in six races and a 98-point lead in the standings.
My season peaked at the Beijing Olympics, where my column ranking Michael Phelps as only the sixth greatest Olympian in history was the most viewed story for August on The Times' website.

I would be heading home on Saturday after covering an Olympic meeting in Switzerland, before she began working.

She was heading to northern Spain to race a slalom and giant slalom this weekend, the start of a European odyssey that will keep her from her house in Park City, Utah, until mid-March.

The grind of racing, training and bouncing all over Europe (this year, the skiers at least get to stay put for about two weeks at the World Championships) leaves an athlete vulnerable to the usual perils of being on cars, trains, planes and buses, including illness and circulation problems.

Vonn was taking no chances.  No style over substance for this down-to-earth native Minnesotan.

As soon as our flight from O’Hare to Frankfurt, Germany, took off, Vonn put on compression socks as a defense against leg cramps and put a mask over her mouth as a defense against germs. She also made frequent use of an antibacterial hand lotion and offered some to me.  She kept a scarf around her neck.

I felt like a rookie traveler, even after logging some 1.5 million miles on United in the 22 years since the airline began recording my travel in Mileage Plus. No mask. No scarf. No special socks. No soap.

But we both had the magic pill.

She and I have found Ambien to be the best defense against the airplane insomnia that occurs when you try to trick your body into sleep well before its normal bedtime.

Which is why my trip with Lindsey was only this much to write home about.

We talked for a while, but both of us spent most of our nine hours together asleep.

-- Phillip Hersh

Photo: Lindsey Vonn races to ninth place in the Lake Louise World Cup Alpine women's Super-G ski race in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Dec. 7. Credit: Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press


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