Alice McKennis finishes 5th in Olympic downhill; Lindsey Vonn takes bronze
JEONGSEON, South Korea — Alice McKennis, of New Castle, finished in fifth place in Wednesday’s Olympic downhill, not far off the pace of bronze medalist and teammate Lindsey Vonn from Vail.
It was McKennis’ best result since winning a World Cup downhill in 2013 at St. Anton in Austria.
“I’m happy with my run,” she said on Wednesday. “I wanted to ski for myself and ski my run, and I’m really proud of the way I performed. It’s such an intense situation and such a big day.”
McKennis suffered a left tibial plateau fracture in 2011, then shattered her right tibial plateau into 30 pieces in 2013 in a devastating injury during a downhill at Garmisch in Germany. Doctors put 11 screws and a metal plate in her leg, and she has an 11-inch scar that she nicknamed “The Shark.”
“It’s been a journey since then, a lot of ups and downs and injuries even since my knee injury, so it’s amazing,” she said. “Having made it back to even the Olympics and to do well on the downhill is incredible.”
Lindsey Vonn, competing in what will likely be her final Olympic downhill, won bronze at the Jeongseon Alpine Center.
“It is so difficult to be on the podium in the Olympics, and I’m really proud to have another medal and to be on the podium with the next generation of the sport,” she said.
Vonn got emotional in the finish area surrounded by her coaches and teammates, and again as she spoke to the press.
“I wish I could keep going,” she said. “I wish this wasn’t my last Olympics but it is, so I’m trying to accept that and deal with the emotions of that and enjoy the ride to the finish.”
Sofia Goggia, of Italy, took the gold by 0.09 seconds. Ragnhild Mowinckel, of Norway, got the silver.
Vonn said she skied a clean run, executing the exact line that she wanted to. But it wasn’t enough.
“Maybe I just was a little bit too clean,” she said. “A little bit too precise with the line. Maybe I should have let the skis run a little bit more.”
Vonn, 33, is the winningest all-time World Cup skier on the women’s circuit, with 81 victories. The Vail resident failed to medal in Saturday’s super-G, finishing in a tie for sixth.
She’ll have one more Olympic race, the alpine combined, set for Thursday (Wednesday night Colorado time). Vonn said she’s trained one day of slalom since Dec. 22.
“I’m better off relying on my muscle memory from way back in the day when I used to win slaloms than try to train and potentially make my knees sore and just expel unnecessary energy,” she said.
Vonn won the gold in the downhill and the bronze in the super-G in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but missed 2014 in Sochi due to a right knee injury. She injured the same knee in a devastating crash in 2013, with complete tears to her ACL and MCL as well as a fractured tibial plateau.
Since Sochi, Vonn has suffered:
• Multiple fractures to her left knee that caused her to cut short her 2015-16 World Cup season.
• A severely fractured right arm in a training crash at Copper Mountain in 2016.
• A back injury after the super-G on Dec. 9, which forced her to skip the next day’s race.