COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. (AP) — Lindsey Vonn eased into her first day of downhill training, holding back on her opening run just so she could get accustomed to cruising at that rate of speed again.
By her fifth and final pass at the U.S. Ski Team's speed center on Wednesday, Vonn was charging so hard through the two-mile course that she bent over in exhaustion soon after finishing, trying to catch her breath.
More and more, the four-time overall World Cup champion is feeling like her old self again as her surgically repaired right knee gets stronger.
The knee felt "really good," Vonn said as she scrambled for the warmth of the lodge following the bitterly cold workout session.
"Everything is good," said Vonn, who's preparing to defend her downhill title at the Sochi Olympic in three months. "I feel fresh and training hard. Everything is perfect."
The 29-year-old Vonn shredded her anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in a crash at the world championships in Schladming last February, but has progressed much faster than anticipated. She even thought about competing at the season-opening race in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 26, only to skip it to give her knee more time to recover.
Asked if there were any regrets about sitting out that competition, Vonn said: "I was definitely disappointed. It's hard to say no for me. But I felt like I needed more time."
These days, all of her decisions are based on one thing: Being in the starting gate at full strength for Sochi.
Vonn will make her return to the World Cup circuit in Beaver Creek later this month, with boyfriend and pro golfer Tiger Woods possibly even showing up to cheer her on.
"We'll see," Vonn said, laughing.
For the next few weeks, Vonn will be working on her speed events. She feels like she has her super-G dialed in and now turns her full attention toward the downhill.
"My skiing in general is really, really good right now, especially in super-G," said Vonn, who captured an Olympic bronze medal in the super-G in Vancouver four years ago to go with her downhill title. "I just need to get a couple of more miles on the downhill."
On her first run Wednesday, Vonn was caught off guard by how much velocity she was picking up on the hill, saying it took her a moment to adjust.
She quickly got the hang of it, though, cruising through the course at about 75 percent of her typical race speed.
Vonn treated the morning workout almost like she would a training session at a World Cup stop. Run after run, she pulled a journal out of her bag and jotted down notes about her equipment. Once finished, she slipped into a different set of skis and headed back up the lift for another pass.
"I just felt good ... for my first day of downhill," said Vonn, who lives in nearby Vail. "Yeah, it was good."
The goal now?
"Get faster," she said. "I need more miles."