Vonn finds winning form despite tumult off slopes

By Pat Graham

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Dec. 9 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

United States' Lindsey Vonn races down the course during women's World Cup super-G ski competition in Beaver Creek, Colo. on Wednesday Dec. 7, 2011. Vonn won the race.

Nathan Bilow, Associated Press

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Lindsey Vonn is chilling out after an exhausting week of charging down the course.

For the next few days, the Olympic gold medalist will catch her breath in Vail as she taps the brakes on a bustling schedule.

Her plans?

Some relaxing, some training. That's it.

So swift on the slopes, she's taking full advantage of this slower pace.

Usually this time of year, Vonn is in Europe preparing for her next competition. But with the races moved to Beaver Creek this week due to a lack of snow in Val d'Isere, France, Vonn gets to spend a little extra time at home with family and friends.

This is good therapy.

While everything is going so well on the hill, away from it she's dealing with a divorce from her husband of four years and persistent rumors over whom she's dating.

It's draining. It's taxing. It's invasive.

But there's always one place to escape, to forget about everything for a while — the mountain.

"When I'm skiing, I'm happy. I have a certain inner peace that I haven't had in a while," Vonn said in an interview with The Associated Press. "If I have my skis on, I feel good."

Vonn sounded exhausted a day after racing to her first World Cup win on U.S. slopes.

She put a lot of pressure on herself to capture a super-G in front of a hometown crowd, especially since this was the first-ever women's race held on the Birds of Prey course. She's never really been this nervous before, including when she stood in the starting gate at the Vancouver Olympics as the overwhelming favorite in the downhill.

She won that day in Vancouver and again this week.

Vonn simply thrives on pressure.

The 27-year-old has won five World Cup races to start the season, including four in a row, which is an American record.

"I'm just happy I could come through for everyone in Vail and Beaver Creek and get a win on home soil," said Vonn, who will soon head to France for a slalom and giant slalom. "I'm happy that I can safely say I've won at home, in the U.S. I definitely had a huge sigh of relief after the race."

To celebrate her electric victory, Vonn dropped to a knee with her skis in her hand and struck a prayer prose, joining the ever-growing "Tebowing" craze.

But that added fuel to the rumor mill.

Recent gossip had her linked with Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, whose brother, Robby, showed up to watch Vonn race in Beaver Creek.

All that speculation is fatiguing and frustrating for Vonn.

"I am single. I'm not with anyone," she said. "I've heard a lot of rumors and a lot of reports. Mostly, the European press has gone a little bit crazy with the rumors that they're coming up with."

Vonn has recently gotten to know the Tebow family. She respects the job Tim Tebow has done in guiding the Broncos back into playoff contention, especially with all the criticism he receives.

"He's proving them all wrong," Vonn said. "In a way, that's what I'm trying to do as well — to be able to compete under any circumstance and keep fighting and doing my best every day. Just because I 'Tebow,' doesn't mean I'm dating him. I said that if I won in Colorado, I would 'Tebow' because I admire what he's doing.

"I know their family pretty well. They're great people, very kind and generous. It's been nice to know them."

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