Vonn ready to put worlds in spotlight

Thu Jan 29, 2015 7:10pm EST
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By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - Alpine skiers kick off their own Super Bowl on Monday when the world championships return to the United States, providing a rare opportunity to put the White Circus in the American sporting spotlight.

A day after the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots clash in the Arizona desert to decide the National Football League championship, the world's best alpine skiers descend on the posh resorts of Vail/Beaver Creek for two weeks of high speed thrills and, most likely, a few spills.

While over 100 million Americans are expected to watch the Super Bowl, only a small fraction would normally be aware of the world championships but from Feb. 2-15 the U.S. could be captivated by the exploits of Snow Queen Lindsey Vonn, the most successful women's ski racer of all-time after notching her 64th career World Cup victory.

Vonn will be the undisputed headliner in Vail but a sparkling supporting cast that includes rising star 19-year-old Olympic slalom gold medallist Mikaela Shiffrin, world and Olympic champion Ted Ligety and evergreen Bode Miller will make sure the home crowd will have plenty to cheer for as the host nation makes an all out assault on the podium.

"America is definitely 'record centric'. Hopefully, it will bring more attention to the sport," explained Vonn after eclipsing Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell's 35-year-old record of 62 wins earlier this month. "It would be good, going into the world championships, that it creates more TV interest and more interest with the general public. Anyway I try to promote the sport.

"I think it's an amazing sport."

Alpine skiing rarely grabs American interest outside of the Winter Olympics.

But with a U.S. team packed from top to bottom with potential champions, the worlds, back on U.S. snow for the first time since 1999, could provide a badly needed boost for the sport and the North American ski industry, which has seen the younger generations gravitate to snowboarding and extreme skiing.   Continued...

Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. celebrates with champagne on the podium after winning the women's World Cup Super-G skiing race in Cortina D'Ampezzo January 19, 2015.    REUTERS/Max Rossi