Vonn's shin still hurting

Updated: February 17, 2010, 11:07 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

WHISTLER, British Columbia -- It's finally time for Lindsey Vonn's Olympics to begin.

After so much speculation about her badly bruised right shin, detailed discussion of treatment with painkillers and Austrian curd cheese -- yes, cheese -- and delay upon delay because of bad weather, Vonn will make her Vancouver Games debut in Wednesday's downhill.

"I'm definitely getting antsy," she said.

As a two-time reigning overall World Cup champion entered in all five Alpine events, Vonn is pegged as a contender to win multiple medals, and is the favorite for gold in the downhill.

It's her best event, and she has won five of six World Cup downhills this season.

"She certainly feels that she has a chance to win the downhill," her husband, Thomas, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "She feels like, although it's going to be extremely painful in the run, that she can still fight through it and put down some of her best skiing."

Vonn was drawn Tuesday night to race 16th, generally considered the ideal starting spot for the speed events, because she'll get to ski before her chief rivals. Among them are Vonn's best friend, Germany's Maria Riesch, the only other woman to win a downhill this season; Sweden's Anja Paerson, owner of five Olympic medals; and Canada's Emily Brydon, who knows this hill well.

Other challengers could include Vonn's U.S. teammate Julia Mancuso, the 2006 Olympic giant slalom champion; Switzerland's Nadia Styger, who beat Vonn by a hundredth of a second on this course two years ago; and Canada's Britt Janyk, who grew up in Whistler.

Mancuso of Squaw Valley, Calif., will start No. 10, Stacey Cook of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., will ski No. 4 and Alice McKennis of Glenwood Springs, Colo., will go No. 23.

"Lindsey is the fastest skier out there," said Patrick Riml, Canada's head women's Alpine coach, "and the goal is to beat her."

Riml is rather familiar with Vonn's skill and determination, because he used to coach the U.S. women's team. He and Vonn's opponents expect nothing less than her best Wednesday, no matter the state of the sports world's most famous shin.

"She's skiing," Paerson said, "and that makes me know that she's in good shape."

Vonn did stay off the slopes completely Tuesday to rest her leg, which her husband said had a bit of a setback and was "throbbing" a day after she was the fastest woman in the first part of Monday's split training session.

"It was definitely sore today, much more sore than it had been in a couple days," he said. "The full-length downhill run yesterday definitely took its toll."

That's why Vonn probably wouldn't have taken part in the downhill training run that was scheduled for Tuesday but was called off because of an overnight snowstorm.

Still, there was good news. Even though she was bothered by the shin, Monday's practice proved that "she knows her leg will hold up at those speeds, and that she can be fast even if it's painful," said Thomas Vonn, who serves as a coach and adviser to his wife.

"I was able to ski the way I wanted to," Lindsey Vonn said. "It was really painful, but I made it down, and I guess that was a real positive step."

Not just for her, but also for NBC, which made the 25-year-old who lives in Vail, Colo., one of the centerpieces of its Olympic promotion and must be thrilled to be able to show her speeding down the mountain at last -- albeit on tape delay, several hours after the race is over and the results are known.

Vonn was hurt Feb. 2, when she tumbled and slammed the top of her right boot against her shin during pre-Olympic practice in Austria. She stayed off skis for more than a week -- it was tough just to walk for a few days -- and then sat out while wet and warm weather wiped out nearly every training session and postponed what was scheduled to be the first women's Alpine race, Sunday's super-combined.

"It's been a lot of hurry-up-and-wait with all these cancellations," she said. "But, you know, with my injury, that was the best possible scenario for me, getting that time to heal."

That said, she is ready to race. U.S. women's coach Jim Tracy went through a video session with Vonn on Monday night to go over sections of the course she needs to pay particular attention to Wednesday.

Not that there appeared to be a whole lot of room for improvement. In Monday's training, Vonn finished the more demanding portion of the day's two runs in 1 minute, 30.75 seconds -- 0.39 seconds faster than the next-fastest skier, Mancuso. Later, skiing the much shorter bottom section, Vonn finished in 18.52 seconds, good for 20th and 0.73 seconds behind Paerson.

Vonn awoke Tuesday feeling the effects of all that bouncy terrain, which makes her boot bang against that swollen shin of hers. So no skiing for one day. Instead, the plan called for more treatment, some working out and maybe watching a movie.

"She'll for sure be racing tomorrow," Thomas Vonn said Tuesday. "There's no question."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report