Nick Didlick / EPA
Lindsey Vonn soars during women's downhill training Wednesday at Lake Louise, Alberta.
Lindsey Vonn whooshed down a Canadian ski course and crossed the finish line Friday in her first race since she blew out her right knee at the world championships in February.
Her preliminary time was a fraction of a second under two minutes — well off the lead at the competition, a World Cup downhill, but successfully down the mountain. The race was held at a resort where Vonn has been so dominant that some people call it Lake Lindsey.
There was no immediate word on how she felt after the run.
Vonn, 29, tore two ligaments and broke her leg in the brutal crash 10 months ago. She partially tore one of the reconstructed ligaments in another crash last month on a training run in Colorado.
She is one of the most decorated skiers in U.S. history and perhaps the most recognizable face in the American contingent for the Sochi Olympics, so the run Friday was closely watched.
“You kind of know if your body is ready or not,” she told The Associated Press and USA Today on Thursday in a joint interview, “and I feel like mine’s ready.”
She told TODAY a few days after the Colorado injury that the most important thing was feeling stable on her skis.
“It’s one thing to feel stable while you’re doing squats — it’s another thing to feel stable while you’re actually racing at 90 miles an hour,” she said. “There definitely is a long ways to go there, but I’m confident that it’s going to be OK.”
The Olympics open Feb. 7 on NBC, from the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. Vonn could compete Feb. 10, 12, 15 and 18.
It’s not clear whether boyfriend Tiger Woods will make the trip to Sochi with her. He was asked about it earlier this week, at a golf tournament in California, and said the decision was “just day to day.”
“We just don’t know how her leg’s going to be,” he said. “We’ll just take it day to day, race to race.”
Vonn won gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. In another TODAY interview in October, she vowed — “You better not doubt me” — that she would return to the medal stand. She has been ski-racing's most dominant figure, a four-time World Cup overall champion who has won an American-record 59 World Cup races.
Friday presented the next big test, and Vonn probably felt at home: The competition was at Lake Louise, in the Canadian province of Alberta, where Vonn has won the last seven World Cup races and hasn’t placed lower than second since 2008. Her 14 overall victories there are the most of any skier at a single venue in World Cup history.
Vonn will race in a second downhill on Saturday and a super-G race on Sunday. She entered a training run on Wednesday and placed 22nd, then skipped a training run on Thursday.
“She’s saving some energy and maybe protecting her knee a little bit,” Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, told the AP and USA Today. “It’s a long time ago that she was racing, and everyone is excited for her because she is the big star of (recent) years, and everyone is happy to see her back on the slope.”
Vonn said that she waited for swelling after her training run on Wednesday, and none came — “all positive signs.”
“I’m really excited. It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “To me, this feels pretty awesome.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published December 6 2013, 1:11 PM