Lindsey Vonn returned to racing in a World Cup downhill Friday in Lake Louise, Alta., 10 months after major knee surgery and less than three weeks after partially re-tearing a ligament. Vonn was thrilled to be back, no matter that her time was not among the top 25.
The reigning Olympic downhill gold medalist took an important step in preparation for the Sochi Games by competing for the first time since her high-speed crash at the world championships in February. She tore two ligaments in her right knee and broke a bone in that leg.
A fall during practice on Nov. 19 in Colorado delayed her comeback.
The American finished in an unofficial time of 1 minute, 59.22 seconds Friday, placing her 41st.
Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch returned to the top of the podium and won the event with a time of 1:56.03 seconds
"The last two years were a little bit difficult because the year before I was winning two races and one second. Last year and the year before was not perfect, but now it seems it's really good for me again. It's great that I had such a good run and finally went back to the podium here.
Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden of Switzerland was .70 seconds back in second and Elena Fanchini of Italy was third in 1:57.23.
A second downhill is scheduled for Saturday followed by a super-G on Sunday.
Canada's Yurkiw 7th
Larisa Yurkiw of Owen Sound, Ont., was Canada's lone racer and she delivered a career-best seventh.
Yurkiw was 51st in the start order and was initially tied for eighth with Stefanie Moser of Austria when the Canadian crossed the finish line. The disqualification of Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein in fifth bumped them up the rankings.
The result was a triumph for Yurkiw, who was dropped from the Canadian ski team after last season. The 25-year-old raised about $150,000 on her own to fund her summer ski camps in Europe and pay for her own coaching and training expenses.
Yurkiw embarked on the ambitious plan to find deep-pocketed sponsors because she wasn't ready to give up on her dream of competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
She wasn't able to race in the 2010 Winter Games because of a catastrophic knee injury suffered just a few weeks before the opening ceremonies. Yurkiw needs one more top-12 result to meet Alpine Canada's criteria for nomination to the Olympic team.
"Today feels like a dream," Yurkiw said. "I had this number seven in my head for some reason all day. When I came down in eighth I forgot about it and then someone mentioned I moved up one.
"I was thinking riding up the chair that the pressure is so high, but finally I can say I'm doing a good job of staying focused on the things that matter and the things that will make me fast. That part I'm really proud of.
"I always admired people who were able to perform under pressure and I'm really happy I feel like I joined the club."
Lake Louise is nicknamed "Lake Lindsey" because Vonn's 14 victories here are more than any other skier at one venue.
The reigning Olympic champion has charged through trials and tribulations to some of those victories, but she lacked her characteristic aggression Friday.
"I was definitely very nervous having my first race in 10 months," Vonn said. "I was really optimistic that I could come down and first race right out of the blocks win. It was wishful thinking, but might as well shoot for the best.
"I was just too nervous. I was really tight and I skied that way. I wasn't in a really deep tuck and pushing the line where I could have. I just kind of skied it. That's not my style and not how I attack a race.
"I think tomorrow is going to be a whole other story. I'm going to be much more relaxed and hopefully more confident and able to ski more aggressively and more like myself."
With files from The Canadian Press