Lindsey Vonn will race in the giant slalom event today on Aspen Mountain, the Olympic gold medalist and four-time overall World Cup champion announced at a press conference Friday afternoon.
Vonn, 28, has been recovering from a stomach bug that landed her in a Vail hospital for two nights last week. Her status for this weekend’s World Cup races had been questionable.
She said she will not race Sunday, however, as she is trying to conserve energy and regain her strength while preparing for next weekend’s races in Lake Louise, Alberta.
The Vail native free skied on Aspen Mountain Friday, and said she took two practice runs through three-quarters of the giant slalom course. The stomach illness left her bedridden and off of skis for more than a week, she said, causing her to lose substantial strength and cardiovascular ability.
“I’m not exactly expecting much out of the results [Saturday],” she said.
While her performance expectations for the race are low, she said she is glad to be on the hill at all this weekend.
“It’s been a really rough couple weeks,” Vonn said. “But I’ve been working hard to get my strength back. I’m not exactly sure what to expect from [Saturday] but I am excited to be able to race in my home state, in front of the home crowd. ... When I thought about the possibility of not racing here it made me sad, so I’m really excited.”
While she said she was grateful to be able to race in Aspen, Vonn had unsuccessfully lobbied the FIS to allow her to compete against the men in Lake Louise this weekend. She said she will continue to push for the right to race the men, despite the skiing authority’s rejection of the idea.
“I was definitely hoping I would be able to race with the men this weekend but unfortunately FIS made the decision that a woman cannot race with men. ... For me, the story is still ongoing. It’s not over yet. There’s still next year and I’m going to keep working on trying to make my dream a reality,” she said.
The steep and challenging course here, running down the Lift 1A side of Aspen Mountain, has thwarted Vonn in past years, never finishing on the podium. Last year she came in 12th place in the giant slalom and dropped out of the slalom with a sore back.
“To be honest with you, Aspen is not exactly my wheel house,” she said. “It’s a very difficult hill for me. It’s very challenging terrain. It’s high altitude, so having a very steep and challenging course is very tough physically. ... I’m not expecting to feel good [Saturday] but definitely I will go out there and do my best.”
The rest of the U.S. Ski Team has likewise often been challenged by the local course. Last year, Julia Mancuso became the first American to podium here after a seven-year drought.
Teen phenomenon Mikaela Shiffrin last year took her first top-10 finish in the slalom event here. Now 17, Shiffrin returns to the Aspen hill this weekend and is expected to be a fan favorite all weekend. German Viktoria Rebensburg took first place in the giant slalom last year.
Racing begins Saturday at 10:15 a.m., with giant slalom finals scheduled for 1:15 p.m.