Vonn said her start gate routine is one of several changes for the better this season. “It’s
been really nice this year; when I’m in the starting gate, I’m calm and I’m focused — I haven’t
really gotten that nervous this year, which is something new for me,” she said. “I’m usually
pretty anxious and I have a lot of adrenaline; I get tight sometimes and too tense and end up
making mistakes. This year I just feel like I know what to do more. I trust my instincts more,
I trust myself more and when I’m in the start gate, it doesn’t matter what is going on around
me; I’m focused on what I need to do.”
What has been going on around Vonn includes an amazing showing by her female U.S. Ski
Team teammates. Last season Vonn’s lone GS podium finish was the only podium for an
American woman in a World Cup tech race. This season, four different women collectively
earned six top-three finishes in gate races. On the speed side, the U.S. women claimed the
downhill Nations Cup for the second consecutive year.
“It’s been great,” said Vonn of the team’s performance. “Both the tech and speed side have
a really good energy right now, everyone is meshing really well together. We’ve all been
training well and we are finally put it all together in the races. It’s really been a fun season;
everyone is really excited and it’s just a really cool vibe and I don’t think that we’ve ever had
that before. It’s very refreshing.”
Vonn arrived in Schaldming, home of the next year’s World Championships, for the World
Cup Finals with the big pressure off but eyeing a new, previously unimaginable goal: Hermann Maier’s 2,000-point single-season record.
Vonn got within 92 points of the record by winning the downhill, her 53rd career World Cup
win, by nearly a second on March 14. It looked like she had it in the bag in the next day’s super G as she had a 1.22-second lead near the bottom of the track — but then she took a turn
too straight and the slush on the side of the course threw on the brakes. She finished fifth but
had plenty of points to secure her fourth title of the season.
An eighth-place finish in the slalom took Vonn to 1,980 points (a new women’s record) with
only the GS, on March 18, left on the menu. Vonn skied conservatively in the first run to stand
16th and hoped for a decent second-run track — she just needed to place 12th or higher to
take the record. That plan was spoiled immediately when Vonn lost her right pole near the
start. She gave it her best shot and even held the lead through one of the split times but finished outside the points, literally and figuratively empty-handed, and second to last in 24th .
Bitterly disappointed, Vonn threw herself on to the finish-area snow — but minutes later, was
back on her feet to receive the big, heavy, crystal globe overall trophy.
“Skiing is the only thing that is simple in my life right now,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of difficult
times in my life with injuries and family issues, and skiing has always the constant in my life
and I can always rely on it. Every day I wake up and know I can go out on the mountain and
that makes me happy and motivated.”
Vonn won the Finals downhill by almost a second,
giving her great confidence on the track where
next year’s World Championships will be raced.
Vonn took the 2012
super G and super