Lindsey Vonn waved and blew kisses to an appreciative crowd Friday after completing the downhill run of the Alpine combined at skiing’s World Championships, savoring every moment as her glorious career nears an end.
The final race for the greatest female skier in history will be the downhill in Sweden Sunday.
Vonn used Friday’s downhill — the combined also features a slalom run — as a last training session, but perhaps it served as a confidence booster, too, after the 34-year-old crashed in her opening race at the World Championships, the super-G, in Are Tuesday.
The American finished equal eighth in the combined downhill in 1:13.43 — 0.72 seconds behind Austrian first-run leader Ramona Siebenhofer — and described her performance as “OK.”
Sporting a black eye after Tuesday’s crash, the former Olympic downhill champion told Eurosport she was also suffering with a rib problem.
“I was definitely really stiff out of the start, I’m having some rib problems, my rib’s out,” she said.
“It really doesn’t feel good, it feels really bad. I’m trying to keep it loose because it tightens and messes up everything.”
Vonn declined to race Friday afternoon’s slalom section of the combined, but said she was confident of improving her downhill speed in Sunday’s race.
“From the first jump down it was pretty decent, but it was a good test for me,” she said. “I have another gear left to go and I’m just going to rest tomorrow [Saturday] and be ready for Sunday.
“The super-G was a different story, hopefully things will work out better for me on Sunday. I need to figure out the top section.
“Obviously, it’s different with a lower start (in super-G), not coming in with any speed. That first jump I tried a line that didn’t work out. I need to look at the video.”
Vonn, who had been planning to retire in December, announced on February 1 that she would call it a day after the World Championships, saying she was “broken beyond repair” after numerous injuries over the years.
Her right knee is permanently damaged, while the American has torn ACLs, suffered fractures, broken her ankle and sliced her right thumb during a golden career which has included 82 World Cup wins, second on the all-time list behind Ingemar Stenmark (86).
Earlier in the week Vonn said she could possibly carry on if she only needed one more win to beat Stenmark’s record, but insisted continuing in search of five wins was “not worth ruining my body for.”
Her career will come full circle Sunday, finishing where she won her first two major championship medals — silvers at the world championships in Are in 2007.
She won the downhill in the Swedish resort at last season’s World Cup and one of the great Alpine skiers should not be discounted Sunday, either, despite the crashes and the injuries. After all, Vonn won downhill bronze in Pyeongchang last year to become the oldest woman to win an Alpine skiing medal at the Winter Olympics.
Swiss Wendy Holdener came from fifth after the downhill to defend successfully her combined world title ahead of Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova and Norwegian Ragnhild Mowinckel.
The 25-year-old Holdener, a triple Olympic medalist from Pyeongchang, is the fifth skier to defend a combined title, while Vlhova became Slovakia’s first ever world championship medalist.