Coutesy of the U.S. Ski Team
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February 14, 2009 — VAL d'ISERE, France - After overcoming the odds and placing second in the first run of women's slalom Saturday, double World Champion Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) crashed early in her second and did not finish.
Maria Riesch of Germany, sixth in the first run, won, while Resi Stiegler (Jackson Hole, WY) finished 19th. Vail's Sarah Schleper just missed qualifying for the second run, finishing 28th in the first run.
Vonn pushed out of the starting gate as best she could with her injured hand duct-taped to her pole, and sliced through the first few gates before her feet got away from her. Leaning in, her boxer-like hand punched down on the snow.
But as she slid to a stop it was difficult to tell if the pain was from the dreams of a third World Championships medal coming to an end or from the pain of banging her injured hand. She was not hurtin the crash.
"Even though I am still in pain I'm still going to be here. You can't get rid of Lindsey too easily," she said after the race. "I'm just trying my best and even though I am in pain I still want to go out there and give it my all and try to win and sometimes it just doesn't work out."
What is certain is in the days since slicing her thumb open on a champagne bottle during a celebration for her downhill win Monday, Vonn has shown what a true champion she really is.
After surgery at an Innsbruck hospital Tuesday, doctors listed the risks she would face if she decided to continue racing.
"Not racing wasn't really an option for me. Just because I have a hurt hand doesn't mean I am going to stop now," Vonn said.
Despite needing help getting dressed, putting on her skis and buckling her boots, Vonn did the best she could to run through her pre-race routine and was ready for the first run.
"I think the adrenaline locked out all the pain," Vonn said. "I just tried my best, skied like I know I can and tried to forget that I have a thumb. It worked out pretty well. I have nothing to lose. I'm just out here for a good time."
After the second run Vonn said she was happy for her friend Riesch, but wished they could have shared the podium.
"It's definitely had a lot of ups and downs and today I was hoping for more. All in all I'm really happy with the way the World Championships went. I was able to win at a big event, which has been a goal of mine for a long time. I think I am on the right track for Vancouver (the 2010 Winter Olympics," she said.
Stiegler made her comeback official Saturday by coming in 19th in her first World Cup in over 13 months. She was back with her normal flare, too, sporting red lipstick and bright red new Shred goggles on Valentine's Day.
In the finish, when she found out French President Nicolas Sarkozy was there to watch, she climbed over the fence into the crowd and got him to autograph her bib.
"Well, I am a big fan of him and his wife. It's pretty impressive to have a president at a ski race. Heroes in your book - you gotta go try and meet. He signed my bib and I blew him a kiss," she said.
On a more serious note though Stiegler said it felt good to be back racing.
"I'm so excited to be back. I just went for it up top, I think the top must have been pretty good, the bottom maybe I was running out of gas," she said.
2009 FIS ALPINE SKI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Val d'Isere, France - Feb. 14, 2009
1. Maria Riesch, Germany, 1:51.80
2. Sarka Zahrobska, Czech Republic, 1:52.57
3. Tanja Poutianen, Finland, 1:52.89
4. Denise Karbon, Italy, 1:52.90
5. Nicole Gius, Italy, 1:52.93
19. Resi Stiegler, Jackson, WY, 1:56.34
DNQ1: Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO), Hailey Duke (Boise, ID)
DNF2: Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO)
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