Lindsey Vonn became the first American alpine skier to earn a medal at five world championships, taking downhill bronze Sunday at the 2017 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland. And she can credit an item in every handyman’s toolbox with an assist.
Numbness in her right hand due to nerve damage from the broken arm she suffered last November has made it difficult for Vonn to hang on to her ski pole. Tuesday’s super-G run ended prematurely when she lost her grip and skied off course, so she turned to a tried-and-true American fix to the problem: duct tape. With the pole strapped to her hand, she could maintain focus on her skiing.
Vonn got down the mountain in 1:33.30, which was 0.45 seconds behind Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec, whose 1:32.85 blitzed the field. Austria’s Stephanie Venier earned silver in 1:33.25.
Her seventh worlds medal, the bronze is Vonn’s fourth in downhill along with gold in 2009 in Val d’Isere, France, and silvers in 2007 in Are, Sweden, and 2011 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Including world cup racing, it is the 14th podium on the slopes of St. Moritz for the three-time Olympian, who won downhill gold and super-G bronze at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
At age 32, Vonn becomes the oldest woman to earn a world championships medal.
Vonn provided a glimpse of Sunday’s performance during Friday’s combined competition, finishing fifth in the event and third in the downhill porion. Vonn’s path to the podium had one less obstacle when Switzerland’s Lara Gut, currently second in world cup downhill points, suffered a knee injury training for the combined, sidelining her for the rest of the season.
The medal adds a flourish to the latest comeback for the oft-injured Vonn. The most successful woman ever to ski on the world cup circuit, she returned to action just three weeks ago, coming back from a knee injury last March, then the broken arm during a training run last November. She won her second race back, a Jan. 21 downhill in Garmisch.
Laurenne Ross gave Team USA two in the top five, recording her best finish at a world championships by placing fifth with a 1:33.57. The 2014 Olympian cracked the top 10 only one other time in her four trips to worlds, a downhill 10th in 2011 in Garmisch. Born in Edmonton, Alberta, and now residing in Bend, Oregon, the 29-year-old has two world cup podiums to her credit: second in downhill at Garmisch in 2013 and second in super-G last February in Soleu-El Tarter, Andorra.