LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — As a little girl, Kaillie Humphries plastered posters of Austrian ski legend Hermann Maier and American Bode Miller on her bedroom wall.
“I was a ski racer, and I looked up to the heroes of my sport,” says Humphries, who switched to bobsleigh and won two Olympic gold medals (so far) for Canada. “But these days, I know there are tons of young girls who have Lindsey Vonn posters in their rooms. They look at her and see the best in the world. She dominates. She gets rewarded.
“She lives the fairy-tale life that comes with being the best.”
The fairy tale took a discouraging turn this weekend in Lake Louise, which is nicknamed “Lake Lindsey” for her routine dominance over the years.
On Friday, Vonn was en route to her 19th World Cup victory on this track when she crashed through three layers of safety netting on the final turn of the women’s season-opening downhill.
Somehow, Vonn dragged herself out of bed Saturday and placed 12th in the downhill, only to crash again in Sunday’s super-G on a slick section near the top of the track.
Surprising turn of events
A surprising turn of events? Sure. But Vonn has made a career of coming back from setbacks both on and off the mountain.
“I just feel a bit deflated overall,” Vonn said Sunday, sporting a nasty gash on the bridge of her nose and a swollen knee. “The lucky thing is that I’m relatively healthy. My main focus this season has always been the Olympics.”
At 33, Vonn already has an Olympic gold medal (in the 2010 downhill) to go with four World Cup overall titles. She is the most decorated female skier in history with 77 World Cup victories and is closing in on the men’s record of 86, which belongs to Ingemar Stenmark.
Her dominance is such that a Vonn downhill run is akin to a Roger Federer backhand or a Wayne Gretzky wraparound from behind the net.
“Sometimes, I think when you see that on a daily basis, you forget how special it is,” says Max Gartner, former president of Alpine Canada. “Lindsey is just so professional. She has a real competitive instinct to win. Once she’s on course, she makes it look so easy. That’s the sign of a real champion.”
Vonn is one of those rare Olympic athletes with a reach that extends far beyond the sports pages or nightly highlight…