Lindsey Vonn nearing return to snow
VAIL — Lindsey Vonn dropped into a skier’s tuck as if she were trying to gain a little extra speed on a downhill course.
Only, this was simply while balancing on a ball at a local gym. Soon, that could actually take place on snow.
Vonn’s surgically repaired right knee is nearly fully healed and she plans to ski this weekend in Portillo, Chile.
For the moment, the plan is to have Vonn ski with the U.S. team, just a few easy runs to test out her knee. But later at the camp, she’s hoping to navigate through some slalom gates and maybe, just maybe — knee willing, of course — even open it up on the course.
“But my expectations are sometimes a little bit out of whack,” Vonn said Wednesday after a 30-minute workout.
The four-time overall World Cup champion is eyeing a possible return to competition in late November at a stop in Beaver Creek, Colo., which is near her hometown of Vail. That’s about three months ahead of the Sochi Olympics in February, where she will defend her downhill title.
Vonn shredded two ligaments and broke a bone during a bad crash at the world championships in Schladming, Austria, more than six months ago. At the time, it looked as if the Sochi Games might be in question for her.
That no longer appears to be the case. She said her knee is feeling so good these days that she no longer needs to ice it after workouts.
“It’s about 98 percent equal (to the good knee),” said Vonn, the scar on her knee barely visible.
To build up her knee, Vonn spends about four hours a day in the gym under the supervision of trainer Martin Hager. On this day, she warmed up on the treadmill and then went through a series of stretching exercises, most of which designed to increase her balance and stability.
“Light workout,” she said, with a laugh.
Listening to everything from Selena Gomez to rapper Wiz Khalifa, Vonn breezed through the workout, hardly even needing a break.
“She’s doing great,” Hager said. “We’re happy with her progress from her knee injury. We’re very happy.”
Although Vonn is optimistic about her skiing in Chile, Hager remains more grounded. His goal is to have her get down the hill with no swelling in the knee.
“That will be the focus for the first few days,” he said. “Just skiing without any pain. No reaction of the knee. That will be the most important factor.”