Kristen Lodgeklodge@skyhidailynews.comWinter Park, CO Colorado

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April 4, 2012
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Vonn, Mancuso wow Winter Park crowds at Nationals

Winter Park was the place to be this weekend with ski racing winners, photo-ops all day long. Lindsey Vonn didn't finish the Women's Giant Slalom on Saturday. However, she spoke to fans after the race. She was too tired to compete in the slalom on Thursday and was nervous about the spring conditions, but the four-time World Cup overall winner said she didn't skip the Nationals because she wanted to support the US Ski Team. "There are a lot of girls that are really fast so it's cool to see that," she said reflecting on racing. "Skiing is on a good path and attendance is improving." Nationals are important, she said."You see the hunger in the young ones."After her run she confessed that she was getting MRIs on her knees in two days. She kept the pain private through most of the ski season. Despite the pain she won races on the World Cup tour this season and matched the American record she set in 2010.Vonn said she is happy, personally and professionally. "It was a great season but it's been a long year. I am definitely physically very tired so I am excited to have some time off."She is looking forward to next year at Worlds then the Olympics, she said. On Saturday morning she drove to Winter Park from her home in Vail. "Colorado has the best snow in the world" she said. She was also looking forward to getting back home for a homecoming celebration at Vail Mountain on Sunday to commemorate a record-setting season. She also planned to ski with participants in her Ski & Snowboard School program, Girls Rock. Vonn is the first American ever to win four World Cup overall titles and the first American woman to win a gold medal in the downhill at the 2010 Winter Olympics. As of Tuesday morning, it was reported that she will not need surgery, just rest, according to the Associated Press. Ski Weekend in Winter ParkWinter Park resident Bill Barnes attended the US Alpine Championship for the second year. Watching the race from the fence at the bottom of the course, he was excited to see Vonn in person, and to get her autograph on a trail map. Barnes recalled a story he heard about Vonn who idolized Picabo Street as a child. After meeting Street and getting her autograph, and not one from another popular skier, Vonn vowed to always be good to fans and sign autographs when she became successful."That is exactly what she did," Barnes said. "For someone who is such a big star she went out of her way to sign autographs and take pictures with all her fans." Barnes attended last year's Nationals in Winter Park, too. "Last year Julia Mancuso was with her mom, and someone yelled Julia, and she came over to talk to us. She even introduced me to her mom. So this year I went to the races on Saturday and Sunday to watch her.""When I watched the races, it was so exciting, and you really feel like you are part of something," he said.Barnes attended the opening ceremonies and he said they were like a mini-Olympics with athletes holding up flags of their countries. "The athletes were so involved, and loved interacting with fans," said Rachel Anderson, Winter Park Resort's spokesperson. "During the opening ceremony the athletes stayed until the very last kids had their favorite skier's signature.""All the athletes and coaches were so accommodating, and it was fun to see athletes with their families," said Anderson."Just to be there, for all these skiers to come to Winter Park where I live, is cool," said Barnes. "The weather was good and it was fun to watch the young skiers and talk to them; they were all excited to be here." RacersJulia Mancuso attracted fans for photos and autographs not only by winning twice during the four-day event, but also by encouraging young racers. "These girls are skiing fast and it's a highlight for young racers to ski well here and if I can help them get highlights, it's even better for me."She, too, was eager to get back home for rest and relaxation after a long racing season.Robby Kelley won his first national title in the giant slalom. Ski racing is in his roots; his mother Lindy is a 1976 Olympian and older siblings Tim and Jessica have also been members of the US Ski Team. "Once I saw number one on the board I was so excited I couldn't really control my emotions", he said. "I started fist pumping, it's just an awesome feeling, something you dream about." "This was a great championships," said third place winner, Mikaela Shiffrin. "It was so much fun to race at Winter Park with my teammates and the racers from all over the country. It's just a cool way to end the season."I spent three and a half months in Europe this winter and it feels so good to celebrate the end of the season at home in Colorado."


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The Sky-Hi News Updated Apr 4, 2012 04:22PM Published Apr 4, 2012 12:44PM Copyright 2012 The Sky-Hi News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.