VAL D’ISERE, France (AP) Anna Veith felt overwhelming relief after proving she can fight her way back to the top.
She won a World Cup super-G race on Sunday, long after last tasting victory in giant slalom at the French resort of Meribel in March 2015.
The Olympic super-G champion’s comeback has been as much mental as physical.
She went to hospital in March to have the patellar tendon in her left knee surgically repaired. That was not long after she had returned in December 2016, following more than one year out having seriously damaged her right knee in a training crash.
”When I think back to the days when I was just on the floor, so many days when I didn’t know if it was possible to get back into race mode or not,” the 28-year-old Austrian said. ”You have to be mentally very strong. When you’re injured it’s hard to stay in that mode, and for me it was important to get back in that race mode, mentally. I know I have it now.”
It was her 15th World Cup race win, yet felt much like a breakthrough for a stylish and graceful skier once so dominant.
Veith has three world championship golds. She clinched overall World Cup titles in 2014 and 2015, before injury and self-doubt followed.
”My dream was to get back onto the top and I reached that today, so it was perfect,” she said. ”The most important is that I have it mentally again. I know that everything’s possible now, and it’s a really good feeling.”
Good timing, too, with the Olympics coming up.
Veith has her sights set on the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea from Feb. 9-25. She will be defending her super-G title and look to improve on her silver in GS from the 2014 Games.
”The most important thing is that I get into the prefect shape in February,” she said.
After Sunday’s race was briefly delayed because of fresh snowfall, Veith clocked 1 minute, 5.77 seconds on the Oreiller-Killy course.
Tina Weirather of Lichtenstein was second in 1:06.25 – her 35th World Cup podium – with Italian Sofia Goggia third in 1:06.28.
”I’m very happy to share a podium with (Veith),” Goggia said. ”It’s really nice to see her back.”
Four-time World Cup winner pulled out of the race because of soreness in her knee.
Remarkably, Weirather raced despite fearing she has broken her left hand.
”Yesterday, when i crashed I went with my hand in the snow and it hurt my hand and my shoulder,” she said. ”I haven’t been to the doctor yet. I’m not sure what it is right now, but for sure not very good because it’s black and blue.”
She also knows a thing or two about courage.
”I could have just have thought ”I can’t do it and given up” but I really wanted to do well today,” Weirather said. ”In the warmup it hurt really badly. I thought that with the adrenalin I’d forget about it.”
One race is enough, though, and she won’t be taking part in Tuesday’s giant slalom in nearby Courchevel.
”I can’t, because I can’t hold my pole and I have to get an X-ray on my hand,” she said. ”I’m not sure if it’s broken or not.”
Goggia, second in Saturday’s super-G behind Vonn, now has 15 World Cup podiums.
But only two wins.
Goggia knows what she must do to improve her conversion rate.
”Do most of the turning in the correct way. Sometimes I make mistakes in my performance,” she said. ”I have to put that off and just ski right and I think it will come.”
Having done the morning’s inspection, Vonn decided against racing as a precautionary measure. The 33-year-old American is flying home.
”To be on the safe side I’m going to give my body some rest,” Vonn tweeted. ”My focus is on the Olympics so no need to risk anything.”
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