Vonn looking for help from the weather

Delay due to lack of snow could give shin time to heal

February 12, 2010|By Chris Dufresne | Tribune Olympic Bureau

WHISTLER, British Columbia — - Lindsey Vonn caught a bad break last week when a shin injury suffered during slalom training in Austria seemingly jeopardized her chances for achieving Olympic glory at the Vancouver Games.

Don't worry: Gray skies are going to clear up?

Strangely, Vonn certainly hopes not.

Her good break came Thursday when the Whistler weather got worse. A day after she openly wondered whether she would be able to compete in these Olympics, a grungy amalgam of snow, rain and fog forced the cancellation of Vonn's anticipated downhill training run. And that bought her precious healing time in an effort to recast herself as Alpine's multi-medal contender.

Let it snow?

"We would welcome that at this point," Thomas Vonn, Lindsey's husband, said.

There was encouraging news on Vonn's shin front after she gobbled down some painkillers (Tylenol), rubbed numbing cream on her bruised shin and made it through a free-ski warm-up run.

Thomas, a former ski racer, trailed his wife down the hill, looking for any discouraging signs.

"She looked OK," he said later. "That made me smile. ... The injury turned the corner, for sure, in the last day or so."

Lindsey and Thomas are hoping the poor weather forecast for the next couple of days will postpone the scheduled running of the men's downhill Saturday. That would likely push the women's combined off its Sunday date and into early next week.

"This might not be a popular opinion, but we can use all the delays we can get," Thomas said

Isn't ski racing bizarre?

No one is calling off the men's downhill yet, but it certainly doesn't look promising for Saturday, with lousy racing weather being predicted through Sunday.

Waiting ought to be a medal sport in Olympic skiing. At the 1998 Nagano Games in Japan, snow and fog delayed the men's downhill for five days.

Weather is the finicky variable that can make - or wreck - ski champions.

On Thursday, in snowy conditions, American Stacey Cook drew bib No. 2 and made it to the training run start gate, only to crash. As a precaution, she was flown by helicopter to a Whistler hospital. She did not suffer a serious injury, according to a statement released by the U.S. Ski Team, and may be able to ski again in these Olympics.

A steady stream of sky sludge ultimately halted the training runs before Vonn, wearing bib 15, could test her shin on the course.

Suddenly, she was "Lucky Lindsey."

At the Nagano Games, in the ski resort of Hakuba, Austrian star Hermann Maier took a harrowing tumble after flying off a jump in the men's downhill. Maier later famously said he looked skyward as he was free-falling and saw a jet from his favorite airline, "Lufthansa."

There was no way that Maier, his body battered and bruised, could have raced a super-G scheduled for the next day. Fog and snow, however, delayed the race two more days. The extra rest allowed Maier enough time to heal - and win the gold medal.

Vonn is looking for that kind of help from the weather gods.

Thomas said Lindsey is still hurting, but everything is relative.

"We'll take bad," he said, "just not real bad."

Lindsey did ingest painkillers, Thomas said, but "nothing too ridiculous," or anything that would put a blood test in jeopardy.

What's this recovery all about?

"Baby steps," Thomas said.

The Alpine men did manage on Thursday to record one official training run, as required, in advance of Saturday's scheduled downhill.

Austria's Michael Walchhofer registered the fastest time at 1 minute, 34.46 seconds. Bode Miller was the top American with an eighth-place finish, with teammate Andrew Weibrecht posting the 10th-fastest training time.

NOTE: Vancouver will have a chance to show off for world at the indoor opening ceremony, which will be hosted by NBC's Bob Costas and Matt Lauer, the same duo who anchored the opening ceremony in Beijing. NBC plans more than 835 hours of coverage, more than the last two Winter Olympics combined.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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