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2010 Winter Olympics Lindsey Vonn Update: Is She Still the Favorite for Gold?

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IFebruary 13, 2010

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 10:  Lindsey Vonn speaks during United States Olympic Committee Alpine Skiing (women) Press Conference ahead of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics on February 10, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Wet conditions, poor visibility, and mushy snow in Whistler, British Columbia, is playing right into the hands of US skier Lindsey Vonn.

The 25-year-old Vonn injured her lower leg in her first slalom training session last week when she jammed a ski tip causing her shin to impact the top of her ski boot.

After arriving in Vancouver, Vonn revealed that she might have to miss part or all of the Olympic Games as well as a number of training sessions.

She took pain killers and numbing cream on Thursday in anticipation of her first training run at Whistler, but the session was delayed and later postponed because of poor visibility on the slopes.

She was able to take part in the warmup and course inspection, but she never got the opportunity to test her ailing shin. A makeup training session was rescheduled for Friday, but that too was cancelled on account of a lack of visibility and wet conditions.

A third practice run today, Saturday, Feb. 13, was cut in order to prepare for the men's downhill race scheduled for this afternoon, but that was also called off because of constantly worsening weather.

What it all means for Vonn is that tomorrow's super-combined event (downhill and giant slalom) was postponed because the competitors haven't had sufficient time to train on the actual courses. As of Saturday afternoon, no makeup date had been set, although it is unlikely to go ahead until Tuesday at the earliest.

While Vonn was scheduled to contest all five alpine skiing events—and medal in at least three—she was never really favorite to win the super-combined gold that was initially planned to run tomorrow.

The downhill competition on Wednesday and the Super-G next Saturday are Vonn's preferred events, and with the extra rest that she is getting right now because of the delays and cancellations, she could actually be in good shape in her major disciplines at the middle and end of next week.

Will she be 100 percent? Probably not. But as her fiercest rivals know, a semi-healthy Vonn can still compete with the best in the world.

Sports bookmakers William Hill still have Vonn, injured shin and all, as the favorite to win both the downhill (6/4) and super-G (7/4) gold medal, and the odds of her taking a big medal haul will only grow with every day the events get pushed back and rescheduled.

The biggest loser in all of this is Vonn's best friend and closest rival Maria Riesch. With Vonn out of the picture, Riesch would be the heavy favorite to finish first in the downhill and to finish among the top two in the super-G. Vonn's participation also bumps Anja Paerson down one more place on the podium, although she is still expected to medal more than once in Vancouver.

While I think it is premature to call Vonn the favorite before she even tests out her shin, I do think her stock is already on the rise. Three or four days ago, there were doubts whether her Olympics was over even before it began.

Now she is once again in the discussion as the one to watch. Just the fact that she said she could "grin and bear" the pain is a strong sign that she will be ready to go whenever the races get underway.

Every passing day plays right into her hands, and as long as the competition gets delayed and rescheduled, Vonn will be rehabbing her leg and growing in strength and confidence.

No news is good news for the cover girl of U.S. skiing. For now, that's more than she could have wished for when she touched down in Vancouver just days ago.

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