Confident Vonn fires Olympic warning shot

VAL-D’ISERE – Lindsey Vonn put a stuttering start to the season and a backlash over her anti-Trump remarks aside as she stormed to a first World Cup victory in 11 months on Saturday, in a warning shot to Olympic rivals.

As one of world sport’s most recognisable athletes, US speed queen Vonn has never been shy of facing the cameras but she has been dealing with a furore over her criticism of President Donald Trump and the US government in a CNN interview.

The 33-year-old responded perfectly on the piste with a dominant win in the super-G in Val d’Isere, taking to 78 her record tally of World Cup victories. “I don’t think I really ever went anywhere. I just had some bad luck and things weren’t really going in the first few races of the season,” Vonn said. “I knew my skiing was there and I just had to execute on race day and make it all the way to the finish.”

Vonn had to withdraw from a super-G in St Moritz last weekend with a back injury, for which she had treatment in Austria. “My back’s much better. It was still a bit stiff at the start,” she said, stressing the challenge had been “more mental”.

“The physical issue that I had just made it hard to have confidence in trusting my body. It was mentally challenging to overcome that and be able to trust myself and push myself even though I’m maybe not moving as well as I normally do. “Over the last few weeks, it’s been a question of ‘keep going, keep fighting, keep trying, keeping picking yourself back up’, especially after the first crash in Lake Louise. My body wasn’t quite up to par and so it was important for me to stay mentally tough and continue to fight.”

Austrian duo Nicole Schmidhofer and Anna Veith, previously Fenninger, respectively the world and Olympic super-G champions, finished fourth and 15th in a competitive field.

And Vonn said her aim was now turned on the February 9-25 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, having missed Sochi because of injury after claiming downhill gold in 2010. “I’m back on track and my goal now is to continue to take this self-confidence, this momentum through to February,” the American said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been on top in super-G, so it just proves that my skiing is good.”

Vonn added: “Of course, all victories are important, especially at this point of my career. But the biggest thing is just getting the confidence going for February. “My confidence gives me a lot of peace of mind going into the next few months of ski races.”

Under the watchful eye of father Alan, Vonn admitted it had been an emotional day’s racing in the French resort. “We’ve all been a little bit disappointed the way the start of the season has gone. But we work very hard as a team together and I think everyone’s exceptionally happy to get things back on track,” she said.

“After Lake Louise I asked my dad if he’d come to some races with me. It’s important for me to stay positive and my dad’s always the one to say never, never give up – he loves Winston Churchill! My dad has always taught me to be mentally tough. He was very happy, it’s his first time in Val d’Isere and it was really cute when he was crying at the finish.”

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