CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy | Lindsey Vonn wants to regain the downhill gold medal at the Olympics so desperately that she has been willing to sacrifice much of the World Cup season to achieve her goal.
With the start of the Pyeongchang Games 2 1/2 weeks away, Vonn is dedicating so much time to testing equipment for the games this week that she may skip an Alpine combined race in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on Friday.
She acknowledges the amount of pressure she’s putting on herself.
“I want to win more than everyone else expects me to win,” Vonn said. “The biggest competitor will be just myself, trying to stay relaxed and stay focused, because I have been waiting for these Olympics for so long and I want to win so badly that I need to be able to keep it together.”
Having won the downhill at the 2010 Vancouver Games, Vonn missed the Sochi Games four years later due to the right knee she injured in a crash at the 2013 world championships.
Aiming to save her best for Pyeongchang, Vonn took four weeks off from the World Cup circuit over New Year’s and has been holding back or sitting out other races when the conditions are difficult — such as fog or ice.
It’s the ice that she’s trying to master in terms of ski testing — trying to find just the right setup between boots and ski edges to give her the confidence to attack in South Korea.
“I just want some other options,” Vonn said, adding that a recent race in Bad Kleinkirchheim made her “see that things weren’t quite right when the conditions were different.
“So it’s important for me to make sure I have all my bases covered. And that’s more important than Lenzerheide is. If I get everything accomplished I’ll be there. If not I’ll be training.”
At the Olympics, Vonn plans to compete in super-G, downhill, and combined — and possibly giant slalom.
Heinz Haemmerle, Vonn’s ski technician, said the big change for Vonn’s ice setup is switching from rounded or “cap” edges to flatter “sandwich” sides.
“She was the only one using cap skis,” Haemmerle said.
Vonn will be testing dozens of pairs of skis.
“Heinzi loves it. The more options the better,” Vonn said. “He would bring 100 pairs if he could. We have a ton of fast skis. It just depends on the conditions. So we just have to kind of narrow things down a little bit.”
As for her setup in optimal snow conditions, Vonn is right on track — as evidenced by her downhill win in Cortina d’Ampezzo on Saturday. A day earlier in Cortina, Vonn finished second in another downhill, one spot ahead of U.S. teammate Mikaela Shiffrin.
It was the first time Vonn and Shiffrin, the overall World Cup leader, shared a podium.
“It’s weird that we haven’t been on the podium together before. Because we’ve both been successful, just not at the same time,” Vonn said. “It was really fun. We’re going to be on the podium a lot more together in the future, which is great. It’s kind of like when Julia (Mancuso) and I were on the podium so many times. It’s always better when you have more Americans up there with you.”
While she has been making great strides in the speed events, Shiffrin was very upset with herself for missing a gate during Sunday’s super-G — in which she never really was on line.
“That’s just experience,” Vonn said. “She’ll figure it out. It’s tactics and, with speed skiing, you have to have the right instincts and you have to have had the experience to know what to do in those situations. So I don’t think she should be worried about it at all.”
Shiffrin, the favorite for Olympic gold in giant slalom and slalom, will be back in action on Tuesday for the GS at Kronplatz resort in San Vigilio di Marebbe.
Then after competing in three races in Lenzerheide, Shiffrin will skip two downhills in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, the following weekend, so she can travel early to Pyeongchang.