Vonn gets a break when weather cancels downhill training session

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 12, 2010

WHISTLER, B.C. -- Snow fell hard Thursday afternoon at the Whistler Creekside resort, the kind of squall that can mess with the training regimens of Olympic skiers. But when a scheduled women's downhill training session was wiped out after just two racers had attempted to ski -- with one of them, American Stacey Cook, crashing violently -- the athlete with the most questions to answer Thursday breathed a healthy sigh of relief.

Lindsey Vonn, the American who came here hoping for as many as five medals and simultaneously battling a painful shin injury, got on skis for the first time since her Feb. 2 crash and took an encouraging warm-up run. But she did not have to push herself -- and the bruise that had threatened her entire Olympics -- beyond that.

"We are thrilled to death that they postponed today, absolutely," said Vonn's husband, former Olympic skier Thomas Vonn, shortly after the cancellation. "The more time, the better that she has to rest it."

Vonn needs to start one of the three scheduled training runs to compete in her first event Sunday.

Whistler is renowned for its unpredictable, and often wet, weather, and the pre-Olympic training period has played true to form. Wednesday's men's downhill training session was cut short after about 40 skiers, and was finally completed Thursday morning. Switzerland's Didier Cuche, the presumptive favorite in the event, posted the fastest time, though he was later disqualified for missing a gate. Cuche was followed by 2006 silver medalist Michael Walchhofer of Austria. Bode Miller and Andrew Weibrecht were the top Americans, in eighth and 10th, respectively.

Vonn tried on her ski boot Wednesday night, her husband said, and it felt significantly better than it had in the previous attempt Monday. She then "side-slipped" the course, all but walking down the mountain with skis pointed horizontally across the slope, before skiing an honest-to-goodness warm-up run, her first attempt to ski since the accident.

"She was in pain," Thomas Vonn said. "But considering what we've been through, it was as good as could be expected. She wasn't like, gritting her teeth. She was like, 'Let's go. I can do this.' "

Prior to Thursday, Lindsey Vonn hadn't taken any medication or other measures to deal with the pain, which is exacerbated because the bruise is precisely at the pressure point where her shin meets the top of her boot.

"So I took a bunch of pain killers and numbed my shin with some creams," Vonn wrote on her Facebook fan page. "Warm-up was still very painful but I think it was good enough to give it a shot in the training run."

Cook fell hard coming off a jump and skidded into a fence. Though she got up on the mountain, she was taken by helicopter to the Whistler Olympic Village Polyclinic. She was released several hours later, and though she will be sore in coming days, "Her prognosis is good," Jim Moeller, the U.S. Olympic team's chief medical officer, said in a statement.

Vonn's first scheduled event is the super combined Sunday, an event that includes runs in the downhill and the slalom. Though Thomas Vonn said his wife intends to ski her entire program -- "She's not bailing out of anything," he said -- it is unclear how effective she'll be.

What is clear, though, is that Thursday went just about as well as planned.

"This helps," Thomas Vonn said. "Every hour extra we can get is a plus for us at this point."

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