It was a big day for the Lindsey Vonn Foundation in Austria.
As Lindsey Vonn made her much-anticipated return to the alpine skiing world cup after 322 days away from racing and finished 13th, her teammate Jackie Wiles — who is sponsored by Vonn’s foundation — scored her first-ever world cup podium in the Altenmarkt-Zauchensee downhill on Sunday.
The third-place finish was a major achievement for the 24-year-old, whose previous best downhill result was 15th from a Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy world cup in January 2014. She also finished 10th in super-G last month in Lake Louise, Alberta.
Austria’s Christine Scheyer won in 1:21.15 for her first world cup podium, followed by Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather in 1:21.54 and Wiles in 1:21.69. Reigning overall world cup champion Lara Gut of Switzerland was one hundredth of a second behind Wiles.
“To come down in third is a dream come true,” said Wiles, a 2014 Olympian at age 21, according to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “I’ve had a tough start to the season and seen so many expectations falling flat, so I really needed this and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“This is definitely going to help my confidence moving forward. Hopefully I’ll have some good skiing coming.”
In December 2015, Wiles was selected by Vonn as the first-ever athlete ambassador for her foundation, meaning Vonn would help fund Wiles as she continued racing and following her dreams, while Wiles would in turn spread the organization’s message. The Lindsey Vonn Foundation was formed earlier that year to empower the next generation of women and support them through, education and athletics.
While Saturday marked Wiles’ first podium appearance, it also marked her mentor’s first appearance in a world cup race in almost 11 months. The 2010 Olympic downhill champion, whose career has been plagued by far too many injuries, last raced in February 2016 in Andorra before ending her season due to three significant fractures near her knee joint that she suffered in a crash at that event.
Vonn, 32, hoped to make her return in early December until she crashed while training in Colorado in November, severely fracturing her upper right arm.
Eight weeks and 300 hours of rehab since her latest surgery, Vonn returned to the world cup to place 13th.
“I’m really happy for Jackie,” Vonn said, according to USSA. “I felt like I was skiing pretty well, just not quite on the limit yet. For me, it’s not really a matter of the results, I’m just happy to be racing again. Of course I have higher expectations for myself, but considering the condition and the fact that we had a training run and a race in the same day, I think it was pretty good.”
Both Vonn and Wiles are expected to compete at next weekend’s speed races in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, which is followed by another weekend of world cup racing in Cortina d’Ampezzo before the world championships begin Feb. 6 in St. Moritz, Switzerland.