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Olympics: Lindsey Vonn happy to be back on the snow

USA Alpine Skier Lindsey Vonn answers questions during a press conference at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Wednesday.
USA Alpine Skier Lindsey Vonn answers questions during a press conference at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Wednesday.
Marcio Sanchez, Associated Press

VANCOUVER — Despite suffering what she has called the "most painful injury" of her career, Lindsey Vonn managed to make it to the downhill course in Whistler Thursday morning on skis.

Vonn inspected the course with her U.S. teammates and then skied down the hill. She was not able to actually complete a training run because training was canceled after just two women attempted to train on the hill that was shrouded in fog, rain and snow most of the day.

Vonn usually relishes the chance to hit the slopes, but she was grateful for the opportunity to rest her aching shin.

"I was happy to be back on snow today," said Vonn. "My shin was still very painful, but I feel like the injury is finally progressing a bit. I am always disappointed when a training run is canceled, but in this situation I definitely welcome the extra day to heal."

The training was scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. but was delayed about a half hour. Visibility improved for a short time, in which Italy's Lucia Recchia was able to complete the day's only run for the women.

Stacey Cook, Mammoth, Calif., followed Recchia in training but fell after the top jump and was airlifted to a hospital in Whistler. She was later released, and although sore from the crash, was expected to be back training on Friday.

Thursday's training was finally cancelled about 11:30 a.m.

The men, however, were able to get their training runs completed. Bode Miller was the fastest American, finishing ninth, while Andrew Weibrecht was 11th. Park City's Ted Ligety was 28th and Sundance's Steven Nyman was 29th.

"Considering the fog and having to wait up top for so long in the soft, wet snow, I felt like I skied pretty well," Ligety said. "I'm just getting more comfortable on it," he said. "Yesterday was a total surprise, I had no idea how turny it really was." Nyman said his run was smoother and cleaner than Wednesday's, and he had better direction off the jumps.

The women were looking forward to skiing on Friday morning, although more rain and snow was forecasted for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

In a press conference the day before her first training run at Creekside, Vonn said she wasn't sure she'd be able to train or compete at all because the pain was so severe.

"I've tried just putting my boot on in my hotel room and I can tell you it's excruciatingly painful," she said Wednesday at a press conference in Vancouver. "I'm hoping (Thursday) when I get on skis things will be okay, but I honestly have no idea. This is definitely the most painful injury I've ever had. It's going to be very, very challenging and very difficult. I will try my best to push through it."

Vonn said just dealing with the injury had affected her mental preparation going into her third Olympic Games where she was heavily favored to win Gold in nearly all of the Alpine disciplines. Some had even referred to her as the Michael Phelps of the Winter Games.

"It's hard to stay positive," she said. "It's hard to focus on being prepared for these Olympics. It's changed my whole perspective coming into these games. It's definitely not he place I want to be. A week ago I won the last World Cup race of the season and I was feeling great, healthy, no problems. Now I am sitting here today questioning whether I can even ski. It's not where I want to be by any means, but I have to stay positive and I will be fighting everyday to compete in all of the disciplines. We'll just have to see what's possible."

Athletes have to ski at least one training run in order to be able to compete in an Olympic event.

If she can make a training run Friday, Vonn keeps open the possibility that she can ski on Sunday in the first Alpine event, the Super Combined.

She said she isn't trying to break any records or be "Michael Phelps. I'm just Lindsey Vonn. For me, I'm just trying to focus on skiing well and I just want to get one medal of any color. I've never been able to achieve that."

Vonn suffered a horrific crash in Torino in 2006 and was flown to a hospital. She did managed to come back and ski, but she said pushing through back pain was easier than the agonizing pain she feels in her shin just standing in a ski boot.

"There is really no way around the pain," she said.

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com