LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Lindsey Vonn returned to racing in a World Cup downhill Friday, 10 months after major knee surgery and less than three weeks after partially re-tearing a ligament, and was thrilled to be back, no matter that she finished 40th of 60 starters.
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 Nov. 19 in Colorado delayed her comeback.
The American finished in 1 minute, 59.22 seconds Friday, more than three seconds behind friend and rival Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, who covered the course in 1:56.03 for her first victory of the season. Hoefl-Riesch was the 2011 overall World Cup champion and a double gold medalist at the 2010 Olympics.
Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden of Switzerland was next in 1:56.73, with Elena Fanchini of Italy third in 1:57.23. Lara Gut of Switzerland, who began the day leading the overall standings, was 10th.
Vonn had missed the previous 14 World Cup races, including the first five this season. She had been aiming to return to action last week at Beaver Creek, Colo., not far from her hometown of Vail, but she scrapped those plans after damaging her repaired ACL in last month's crash.
Still, she was pleased to make her comeback at Lake Louise, where she entered Friday with a seven-race winning streak dating to 2010. That included three-victory sweeps in 2011 and 2012, and her 14 career wins at a place some have nicknamed "Lake Lindsey" are a World Cup record for one skier at any venue.
Indeed, over the 12 previous Lake Louise races, Vonn never placed lower than second, with nine victories and three runner-up finishes.
But what truly mattered on this day was that Vonn was wearing a race bib, in the starting gate, and speeding down the hill at all, her right knee protected by a brace under her suit.
She skied conservatively by her standards and acknowledged afterward dealing with nerves during her season debut.
Vonn said she will enter Saturday's downhill and Sunday's super-G.
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