February 20, 2018 / 4:35 AM / 3 months ago

Olympics-Alpine skiing-Vonn faces last downhill gold chance - barring miracles

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Lindsey Vonn, the most successful World Cup woman skier of all-time, is “99.9 percent sure” that Wednesday will mark her final Olympic downhill race.

She is not retiring just yet though.

The 33-year-old American’s plan, for the moment, is to carry on competing in the World Cup until she surpasses Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 race wins on the men’s circuit, the most by any athlete.

Vonn currently has 81 World Cup triumphs.

So another season, perhaps two, of powering down the slopes of Europe and North America. But no Beijing Games in 2022. No 37-year-old Vonn looking to add more gold to her legacy.

After downhill training on Tuesday, though, Vonn was asked if she was absolutely sure she would not be an Olympian again.

“I haven’t ever completely said that I am not,” she said, slightly opening the door, before almost closing it shut again.

“I feel like its 99.9 percent sure that I won’t but who knows maybe something will come out and they will fix my knee up and I will be like robo-knee and ski like 10 more years and that would be ideal”.

Since first tearing her ACL in 2007, Vonn has suffered frequent knee ligament injuries as well as broken bones and missed the 2014 Sochi Games due to a serious knee injury she has been managing it ever since.

When it comes to the question of continuing in the sport or not, she said it is not a matter of motivation or desire but purely whether her knee can cope.

“Oh yeah, I love what I do. I have so much fun going fast and pushing myself to the limit on downhill skis there is nothing else I would rather do,” she said.

“So if I could physically continue skiing then I absolutely will. But at this point, it takes a lot to make my knee good enough to ski downhill, it has to be pretty solid to push yourself at these speeds and be able to trust it.

“I am just counting on some medical miracles to extend my career.”

Barring that miracle, Wednesday’s downhill at Jeongseon Alpine Centre, where she faces a strong challenge from Italian Sofia Goggia, will be her final opportunity to add to the downhill gold and super-G bronze she won in Vancouver in 2010.

She starts as favourite, a familiar position and one she is comfortable with.

“It’s all or nothing so there is really no reason to be nervous or think about pressure or expectation because either I win or I lose,” she said.

“And if I am nervous I am going to lose anyway so what’s the point?”

Editing by Greg Stutchbury

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