Lindsey Vonn aims for December return to World Cup ski racing
Skier Lindsey Vonn, wearing an ice pack on her surgically repaired right knee, talks with a camera crew in Beaver Creek. Colo Saturday, March 29, 2014. (AP / Pat Graham)
Pat Graham, The Associated Press
Published Saturday, March 29, 2014 6:53PM EDT
BEAVER CREEK, Colo. -- Lindsey Vonn knows it was just some youthful exuberance when teenager Mikaela Shiffrin playfully announced she was dreaming of winning five gold medals at the next Winter Olympics.
Vonn certainly appreciates such a lofty goal by Shiffrin, who captured the slalom title at the Sochi Games last month.
A light-hearted warning, though.
"I'm going to compete in the 2018 Olympics," Vonn said with a laugh. "So she's going to have tough competition in the speed events."
With four years down the road in mind, Vonn is taking it slow with her surgically repaired right knee. She said she doesn't anticipate a return to racing until early December.
The four-time overall World Cup champion had her ACL fixed for a second time in January, sidelining her for Sochi. As it turned out, there was "quite a bit of meniscus damage" in the knee and that's caused her to push back her time frame.
Vonn hopes to train on snow by October and be racing in Lake Louise, Alberta, two months later, on a hill where she's always done well.
But that's all tentative.
No sense rushing back to racing, no matter how antsy she's growing to step back into the starting gate.
"If I have to push the date back when I start, so be it," Vonn told The Associated Press on Saturday. "To ensure the next four years go smoothly, I have to give this meniscus some time to heal."
In between rehabilitation sessions, the 29-year-old Vonn is finding plenty of other things to occupy her time. She's sneaking in some fly fishing with her dog, Leo, starting a new foundation and having coffee with skiing great Annemarie Moser-Proell, whose record Vonn is chasing. Vonn remains three wins from matching the World Cup record of 62 race victories by Moser-Proell.
"She wants me to break her record," Vonn said. "You don't see that. I think she's a really, really nice person and I really enjoyed spending time with her."
Vonn ventured around Beaver Creek on Saturday to support "Ski Girls Rock," a program that focuses on empowering girls through skiing. She met with the kids, signed autographs, posed for pictures and then called a brief timeout to sit on an outdoor couch near a fire pit to rest her knee and film a video. She put an ice bag on the knee as she settled into the couch.
"The knee is coming along nicely," she said. "It's obviously a slow process, but I'm making progress every day, so that's good."
Vonn has already decided she's not even going to try to walk every hole as she trails boyfriend Tiger Woods around at the Masters next month -- provided, of course, Woods even plays, given his ailing back.
"We'll see how far I make it," Vonn said. "With my meniscus the way it is, it's not great to be on my feet all the time."
Vonn tore two ligaments in her right knee during a high-speed crash at the world championships in February 2013. She then re-injured her surgically repaired ACL in a crash during training last November. Vonn tried to rehab the knee in time for Sochi, but sprained her MCL racing a downhill in France on Dec. 21.
Even though it was difficult not competing in Sochi, Vonn said she caught nearly all of the races.
However, her computer crashed just before the second run of the women's slalom. She missed quite a recovery from Shiffrin, who overcame a major mistake to win gold.
"Mikaela is skiing incredible," Vonn said. "With her slalom, she's in a league of her own right now."
Very soon, Shiffrin will be stepping into Vonn's domain -- the speed events. Shiffrin recently squeezed in some super-G training at Beaver Creek on Raptor, the race hill for the world championships next February. She may just ski a few speed events next season.
"Ideally, I would race my first super-G with all these girls at the world champions at Beaver Creek and win," said Shiffrin, who was thrown a welcome-home party by Vail on Friday. "That's my mindset, where I'm going to come out of the wood-work and be like, 'I've never raced against you girls and I'm starting bib 60 and I'm going to beat you all.' That's not really possible. But we'll see how it goes."
While Shiffrin is emerging as the next big thing, some of Vonn's good friends on the circuit -- like Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany -- are calling it a career.
"It's going to be weird to not have them there," Vonn said. "I'm just really itching to get back to racing. I want to race.
"That's the only frustration I have in my life right now, which is not bad. It means things are pretty good."