BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Lindsey Vonn now has a complete set of world championship medals in super-G.
At the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, she finished third, adding a worlds bronze medal to her collection. She finished 0.15 behind Austria’s Anna Fenninger — the defending Olympic gold medalist in super-G — and 0.12 behind defending super-G world champion Tina Maze from Slovenia.
Vonn won a super-G world championship gold medal in 2009 and a silver medal in 2007. She now has six world championship medals, more than any other U.S. skier. Coming in to today’s race, she was tied with Julia Mancuso, Bode Miller and Ted Ligety, each with five. It was also Vonn’s first bronze medal at a world championship.
“Wahoo, first bronze!” she joked afterwards.
Were it not for a gust of wind, Vonn’s medal might have been gold.
Buffeted by a stiff breeze right out of the start — lowered five gates because of wind and snow — Vonn was happy with how she skied and with the result. She just wished the weather had been better.
“I was already three-tenths out in the first 20 seconds,” she said. “It’s a little bit hard to make up that time.”
But she tried awfully hard, skiing on the edge on the bottom of the course and making up those 20 seconds and then some. When she crossed the line in first, the crowd in the stadium went wild.
The joy did not last long. Maze skied right after Vonn and was 0.12 seconds faster.
“Lindsey is a great athlete, and she came back really strong (from her knee injuries), so she was the one to beat for me here,” said Maze. “When I came down and saw that number '1,' I was really happy about it.”
“Of course the crowd was not really excited,” Maze added with a laugh.
Then Fenninger claimed gold. The Austrian had finished second to Vonn in the final two world cups leading up to worlds and knew that she could make the final step up the podium.
“I always said that’s the last thing I need is good luck,” said Fenninger. “I think I had it today because the race was tight and the hundredths were on my side.”
But Vonn did not have the same luck. She believed that the wind at the top cost her more than the 0.15 seconds that she lost to Fenninger.
“At the same time, Anna skied incredibly well,” Vonn added. “I’m very proud to be on the podium with those two.”
Watching from the VIP area was Vonn’s boyfriend, Tiger Woods. He flew up from Phoenix, Arizona, where he competed in the Waste Management Open golf tournament last weekend.
The medal for Vonn brought her recovery full circle. Two years ago, at the 2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria, she crashed in super-G and severely damaged her right knee. Then last November, while trying to come back in time to defend her Olympic gold medal in downhill at Sochi, she crashed again, re-damaging the surgically repaired knee.
“You have to be happy to medal at home (in Vail) after being injured the past two years,” she said. “This season has been a lot more than I expected. To come away with a medal is awesome.”
Still, she knows that she can ski better. Rehab from her second knee surgery cut into her pre-season preparation, and she is aware that she is making a few technical mistakes.
“I know I can make it better, I just need a little more time to train,” she said. “For next year, it’s going to be nice to have a full preparation period and come into the season a lot technically stronger than I was this year.”
“I still think that for the amount of time I had to prepare,” she added, “coming back from two knee surgeries, it’s gone a lot better than I anticipated.”
Vonn was unaware that she now owns more world championship medals than any U.S. ski racer in history (though is far short of Christl Cranz from Germany, who won 12 back in the 1930s when the world championships were held every year, rather than biennially). Vonn also has 64 world cup wins, the most among women. She broke that record in January.
Asked what record she wishes to break next, Vonn jokingly plugged her ears and said, “I don’t even know what the records are, I’m not even listening, there are no records, I’m just trying to win.”
“My goal is just to try to ski my best every day and try to win as many races as I can — world championships, world cups, the Olympics,” she added. “I try to keep improving, pushing the limits, that’s what I do, that’s what I love about ski racing. That’s all I’m going to be focused on.”
Rounding out results for the U.S. women in the super-G were Julia Mancuso in ninth, Stacey Cook in 13th and Laurenne Ross, 15th.
The women race again on Friday in the downhill.
“I’m looking forward to Friday,” said Vonn. “I’m hoping for a fair race and another chance to get another medal.”
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered three Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.