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Lindsey Vonn returns to slopes after year-long injury lay-off

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta — Lindsey Vonn made a very promising return to action after a year’s injury lay-off, finishing eighth in a World Cup downhill on Friday, just outside the goal she had set for herself.

“I was expecting so much from this return. I really wanted to come to this race with a goal in mind. I was going for top five but I had left myself a margin to see where I really stood,” the American told journalists in the finish area.

The four times World Cup winner finished 0.85 seconds slower than Olympic champion Tina Maze of Slovenia but admitted she could not complain after spending exactly 349 days without competing.

“This was a good start. I’m glad to tackle the season with an eighth place,” she said. “Clearly, if I look closer, I could have pushed myself a little bit more. But it’ll do for now, I must not forget that it was my first race in a year.”

It took a long and painful process to rebuild herself after a shin fracture and two knee operations in the past two years.

But while a little clumsy and cautious in the gliding sections she usually relishes, she showed her sheer class was intact, even leading the way at the intermediate timing halfway down before faltering near the bottom.

“It was like getting back on a bike, I had been so far away from the circuit,” she said.

“I was not really in line, but there was a bit of fresh snow. I’m not blaming the conditions, for it was not the problem, but with my level of confidence as it is, it had an impact.”

Maze, who bagged the 25th World Cup victory in her career, the fourth in a downhill.

Reigning World Cup champion Anna Fenninger of Austria came second, 0.45 seconds, showing great form as well after her victory in the opening giant slalom in Soelden in October.

Vonn admitted the level of competition had improved in her absence and she was still far from challenging the two skiers who took over from her in the last two winters.

“I think I might need more time than I expected to come back,” said the American, who won a record 14 World Cup races in Lake Louise. “They really do ski better.”

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