CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – Lindsey Vonn skied conservatively in the first World Cup downhill training session of her injury-delayed season on Thursday.
In foggy conditions, Vonn placed 10th, 0.76 seconds behind leader Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway, and was a bit shaky landing the final jump on the Olympia delle Tofane course.
“I was really happy to be back in the starting gate. I was a little bit nervous — a couple more butterflies than normal,” Vonn said. “I didn’t take any risks. I was a little bit round and conservative but I skied cleanly and for the most part executed the line the way I wanted to. The last jump is a little bit of a kicker.”
Vonn, who injured her left knee in November, will return to competition in downhill races on Friday and Saturday, followed by a super-G on Sunday . She plans to retire next season.
The American needs five more wins to break the all-time victories record of 86 held by Swedish standout Ingemar Stenmark. Vonn already holds the record of 12 wins in Cortina.
Tamara Tippler of Austria placed second in training, 0.06 seconds behind Mowinckel, and Romane Miradoli of France was third, 0.39 back. There were several delays due to the fog.
“I had a lot of fun but I was a little surprised after Tofana (a chute between two massive walls of rock) how much air I got, and I was just getting my bearings for a minute after that,” Vonn said. “I skied a little bit too round in that section but otherwise it was kind of just business as usual. ... By the bottom I felt better.”
During her eight days of skiing to prepare for these races, Vonn focused exclusively on super-G with one day of super-G on downhill skis.
“So I haven’t really gotten up to the speed in two months,” she said. “It was fun to go fast again.”
Vonn did not start the second training session later Thursday, and she wasn’t concerned about a forecast for overnight snow — even though her comeback was already delayed a week when nine feet (three meters) of snow forced the cancellation of last weekend’s races in St. Anton, Austria.
“It’s not going to snow that much,” Vonn said. “I’ve seen Cortina have a meter of snow and have a race, so I am not concerned about that. My concern is just getting my knees iced up and getting prepared for the race tomorrow. That’s all that’s on my mind. I know that we’re going to have a race tomorrow.”
Reaction to Vonn’s return was mixed.
“I race against time and against (the) course, so if she’s here or not or if anyone is missing or not it doesn’t really change a lot,” said Slovenian rival Ilka Stuhec, the reigning downhill world champion who won back-to-back speed races in Val Gardena last month.
Added Mowinckel, who won the Olympic downhill silver medal, one spot ahead of Vonn, “She’s a big icon here so it’s cool to have her back. ... That’s the best part, when all the competitors can be there in races.”
Several skiers fell in the second training run, which was held amid snowfall and thicker fog.
Ester Ledecka, the Czech skier-snowboarder who won the Olympic super-G, lost control and slid down the hill for a ways then got back up and finished her run. She said she was not injured.
Swiss racer Jasmine Flury and Ricarda Haaser also crashed.
Corine Suter of Switzerland led the second session, 0.27 ahead of Cornelia Huetter of Austria and 0.36 ahead of Stuhec.