Vonn looks to new season with fewer bumps in her way

  • Article by: PAT GRAHAM , A ssociated Press
  • Updated: September 14, 2012 - 11:16 PM

 She won the World Cup while battling physical and personal issues. This year, she has fresh confidence.

Lindsey Vonn is in a good place heading into the World Cup season -- a "really happy place" as she's fond of calling it.

Just a year ago, the Burnsville native's personal life was turned upside down when she separated from her husband of four years.

Since then, the U.S. skier has put the split behind her and rekindled relationships with teammates. She's also feeling as strong as ever after taking a different training approach this offseason to save wear and tear on her balky left knee.

And sure, defending her overall title this season remains at the top of her to-do list. So is this: eclipsing the 2,000-point plateau after finishing just 20 away last season. She would like nothing more than to join Austrian great Hermann Maier as the only skiers to attain that lofty mark.

"I want to try to improve on what I did last year," Vonn said in an interview from Portillo, Chile, where she's training with the U.S. squad. "That may not be possible. But that's what I'm going to try and do."

In the midst of her personal strife last season, Vonn found solace in the one place that's always been her sanctuary -- the slopes. Once she clicked into her skis, Vonn was all business as she captured 12 World Cup races, putting her within striking distance of becoming the all-time winningest female skier. She has 53 career victories, trailing only Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria (62) and Vreni Schneider of Switzerland (55).

"She has raised the bar as to what is capable for a female ski racer," women's speed coach Chip White said. "The scary thing now is she is showing no signs of slowing down."

What helped last season was having family and friends constantly around, taking her mind off any problems away from the race course.

"Life is very, very different for me right now," said Vonn, a four-time World Cup overall winner from Vail, Colo. "But I am in a really happy place. This is a new chapter. I'm ready for it."

She wasn't ready for this: intense tabloid speculation.

Vonn is used to making headlines for victories, not over whom she may be dating.

By Vonn's standards, this summer was a low-key break from the snow. There were no trips down the red carpet or guest appearances on "Law & Order."

Instead, she traipsed through Europe with her sisters, culminating with a visit to the luxurious beaches in the southern French resort town of Saint Tropez, attended a Rascal Flatts concert in North Carolina and ventured over to London for the Olympics.

Being there made her antsy for the 2014 Sochi Games.

"I was wondering why I wasn't competing," said Vonn, who captured the Olympic downhill gold medal in Vancouver. "I'm ready to race."

Soon, she will step back into the starting gate. In just a month, the World Cup season begins with a giant slalom competition in Soelden, Austria.

She's confident her knees will hold up.

This offseason, Vonn altered her training routine, spending less time running and more time on the bike. She also lifted more weights and went through more agility drills.

Vonn's eager to charge after another title. It won't be easy, though, with good friend and rival Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany always in the mix, along with Tina Maze of Slovenia and, of course, American teammate Julia Mancuso.

The first order of business for Vonn over the offseason -- for most skiers, really -- was getting used to new giant slalom skis. To make the discipline safer, the International Ski Federation altered the hourglass shape of the skis, and the rules go into effect this season.

"My goal is to try to win races, try to minimize the mistakes, try to be as smart as I can with every single race," Vonn said. "Yeah, 2,000 points would be great. But I don't know if it's something I should focus on. If it happens, it will happen."

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