BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — Finally, Lindsey Vonn figured out a tricky course that had given her so much difficulty for nearly two weeks. She even took a momentary lead.
The crowd erupted. She threw her head back in celebration and then blew kisses at the fans. Even boyfriend Tiger Woods smiled from the sideline.
But the lead didn’t last — too many racers still to go. Vonn dropped to 14th in the giant slalom Thursday at the world championships in an event won by Austria’s Anna Fenninger. Still, Vonn said she wound up her last race in front of a hometown crowd on a “positive note.”
“I tried my best these whole championships,” the 30-year-old Vonn said. “Not every run worked out.”
Three days ago, Vonn was in tears after failing to finish the slalom portion of the Alpine combined. That, she acknowledged, was simply all the pressure of overwhelming expectations finally bubbling over.
This time, in her final event — she’s not taking part in the slalom Saturday — she was relaxed and didn’t think about medals. She was quite a distance behind Fenninger after the first run, but had one of the top times in the final run.
“I really risked everything,” she said. “I let it go.”
Vonn was expected to win numerous medals at these championships, especially being so close to her home in Vail. But the icy and bumpy course at Beaver Creek gave her surgically repaired right knee some trouble and her only medal was bronze in the super-G.
“I maybe just wanted to do well too much,” said Vonn, who became the all-time winningest female World Cup racer this season. “No matter how hard I tried, it just wasn’t working. But I’m still happy with these worlds. I’m honored to be racing in front of my home crowd.
“I’m leaving here with a very special feeling.”
Now, the stage belongs to Mikaela Shiffrin, who’s from nearby Eagle-Vail. Shiffrin finished eighth in the GS. Her specialty is slalom, the event in which she came home with a gold medal from the Sochi Olympics last February.
Asked if there was more pressure to perform in front of a hometown crowd, Shiffrin simply responded, “It’s my job to perform. I love the hometown crowd. I don’t feel any extra pressure to do anything here.”
Vonn certainly appreciated the support of the crowd, her family and Woods, who attended a few of her races. She said Woods even watched video with her the night before the giant slalom, asking quite a few questions.
“He really cares. He tries really hard. It’s very sweet,” Vonn said. “It’s so nice to have his support. He’s always a good sounding board. He’s an athlete himself so it’s nice to talk to him when I feel down. I had a couple of down days and he was definitely a good support system.”