Wind blows Vonn off track in first race at worlds
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) Lindsey Vonn's first race in her backyard at world championships wasn't so much a breeze.
No, it was a full-force gale that blew the American skier slightly off track early in the super-G on Tuesday before she recovered enough to earn a bronze medal.
The wind was so intense it whooshed her pony tail straight behind her while she waited in the starting gate. On the course, the blasts were so strong she stood up in the middle of her run, costing her valuable time.
Austria's Anna Fenninger was much more aerodynamic as she added a super-G world title to the Olympic gold medal she won in Sochi. Nearly as wind resistant was Slovenia's Tina Maze, who captured silver on a course that was shortened because of the blustery conditions.
This trio just may be the ones on the podium again in the downhill Friday. Vonn's already studying forecasts for the race, hoping for anything but blowing snow.
''I just want a fair race and another chance to get on the podium,'' said Vonn, who lives in nearby Vail.
That's the thing about ski racing: Conditions can't be the same for everyone. Not all the time, anyway.
''As an athlete you know that going in,'' Vonn said. ''You know that in the start gate.
''You have to go with it and do the best you can.''
With boyfriend Tiger Woods, her family and thousands of hometowns fans cheering her on at the finish line, Vonn launched out of the gate and was instantly greeted by a strong headwind. She made some head way halfway down the course and crossed the finish line in first place to the thunderous ovation of the crowd. The lead didn't last.
Maze was next and beat her time, stunning the fans.
Then, Fenninger found a fast line and grabbed the lead for good.
''I have to say that Anna skied exceptionally well,'' Vonn said. ''But I would like another chance at the course with a little less wind.''
Here are things to know as a snowstorm moves into the area and possibly impacts the men's super-G race Wednesday:
FINGERS CROSSED: Race organizers are expecting up to 15 centimeters (nearly six inches) of snow overnight and maybe more throughout Wednesday. That means a lot of work for the course crew to prepare the track for the men's super-G, where U.S. skier Ted Ligety is the defending champion. There are no races scheduled Thursday, only downhill training, so that could be a safety net.
MILLER UPDATE: Six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller was all over the course in a downhill training session Tuesday. But his surgically repaired back held up just fine and he's planning to race in the super-G and the men's downhill on Saturday. He's yet to compete this season. ''I have the speed to be a viable threat for the medals,'' said the 37-year-old Miller, who had a herniated disk fixed in his back in November. ''That's why we're all here. I think everyone is on the same page.''
SVINDAL REPORT: When Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway tore his left Achilles in October, his chances of making it back in time for world were next to none. He had a solid training run Tuesday and is now going to give it a go in the super-G. Even he's a little surprised by his rapid recover. ''This whole speculation started because someone asked me the question: Will it be possible to be back for world championships?'' Svindal recounted. ''My answer was, `Nothing is impossible.''' Does he see himself on the podium? ''I don't think I'm a medal contender, but it will be fun,'' Svindal said.
HARROWING EXPERIENCE: Austria's Marcel Hirscher, the reigning overall World Cup champion, was a little intimidated by the demanding Birds of Prey downhill course. After his training run, Hirscher said: ''I'm super happy I'm safe in the finish area. For a slalom guy, it's a big experience to jump down Golden Eagle and the Harrier jump, all those crazy parts on this course. It was just fun.''
BACK PAIN: The Swiss team announced that Sandro Viletta, the super-combined gold medalist at the 2014 Sochi Games, won't compete at worlds due to back pain. Viletta's only World Cup victory was at Beaver Creek in the super-G in 2011.