Vonn's focus turns to actual competition

Updated: February 15, 2010, 3:07 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

WHISTLER, British Columbia -- Lindsey Vonn went through a rigorous slalom training session Sunday, passing the toughest test yet for her bruised right shin at the Vancouver Olympics.

Vonn I feel more confident now. I feel like I'm getting into a more aggressive mindset. That's what I need. I need to be in the start house and feel confident that I can trust my body and race aggressively. I'm starting to get that feeling back.

-- Lindsey Vonn

"It definitely went completely better than I anticipated," Vonn said after a total of 2½ hours on the slopes, according to SI.com. "It felt good. It was still painful, but I was able to grit my teeth through it.

"I feel more confident now. I feel like I'm getting into a more aggressive mindset. That's what I need. I need to be in the start house and feel confident that I can trust my body and race aggressively. I'm starting to get that feeling back."

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Vonn's husband said the two-time overall World Cup champion is no longer worrying about whether she will be able to compete at the Vancouver Olympics, but rather thinking about how best to prepare for pursuing medals.

"She definitely wants to get out there and get going," said Thomas Vonn, who serves as a coach and chief adviser to his wife. "Her focus has definitely changed from, 'Am I going to race?' to 'I'm definitely racing, and I need to get the rust off and try to get the speed back.'"

Lindsey Vonn had not done any full-fledged training on a hill since hurting herself Feb. 2, when she tumbled and slammed the top of her right boot against her leg during pre-Olympic practice in Austria.

She stayed off skis for more than a week -- for a few days, it was tough even to walk -- then has been forced to wait along with everyone else while wet and warm weather canceled one official training session after another at Whistler.

The first women's Alpine race at the Winter Games originally was supposed to be a super-combined Sunday, but that event was pushed back to Thursday because of the delays. Now the women aren't slated to race until Wednesday's downhill, Vonn's best event. She has won five of six World Cup downhills this season.

"When [Sunday's] training run got canceled, we just thought it would be good to get up there on the hill and find a way to push it a little bit," Vonn told SI.com after her Sunday training session. "Especially in slalom, because slalom is where I put the most stress on the injury and we needed to see how it was going to be for combined.

"My shin has been feeling progressively better day by day, but I wanted to see where it really stood. I really hadn't skied fast in a long time. I hadn't done a downhill training run. I hadn't done any real training. The free-skiing last week was good, but it's a lot slower than racing or even training."

Organizers have scheduled an unusual, split women's downhill training run for Monday, bookending it around the men's downhill medal race. Women will ski the top part of their course in the morning, before the men race, then cover the bottom portion afterward -- weather permitting, of course.

Thomas Vonn said all of the forced rest can be credited with helping his wife's shin feel "better and better every day," prompting Sunday's trip to the mountain. She set out first for a casual free ski and, when that went well, decided to do more spirited training. All told, they were on the slopes for about 2½ hours.

"By the end, she could go full-on normal slalom, and slalom would be the toughest for her to do on that shin, because there's so much movement, and you're hitting the gates," he said.

Before her injury became known, Vonn was widely considered a contender for perhaps three or four medals -- and an overwhelming favorite for golds in the downhill and super-G -- and was pegged to become the breakout star of these Olympics, the focus of much of NBC's promotion.

But when she arrived in Vancouver on Wednesday, Vonn sounded glum as she wondered aloud whether her shin would even allow her to ski.

Sunday's official downhill practice was called off because of too much rain overnight. That followed washouts of practices slated for Friday and Saturday, while Thursday's training run was stopped because of thick fog after only two racers left the starting gate.

"She absolutely needed those days off. Without those delays, it would have been absolutely questionable whether she could [compete]," Thomas Vonn said. "Now we need to get her back up to speed. She hasn't been able to really ski slalom in over three weeks. That's a long time when you're going into the Olympic Games."

He said his wife is still taking painkillers to dull the aching in her leg.

"It's not like it's all gone. The injury hasn't disappeared," he said. "She still has pain when she's skiing."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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