U.S. hopes for Vonn-derful start to worlds

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 02, 2015 9:24 PM

By Steve Keating

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado (Reuters) - American ski queen Lindsey Vonn will be the headliner and gold medal favorite when the alpine world championships open with the women's Super-G on Tuesday.

With the worlds back at the posh Colorado resorts of Vail and Beaver Creek for the first time in 16 years, American ski fans will have reason to cheer as Vonn, who last month became the most successful women's skier of all time with 64 career World Cup wins, looks to add to a sparkling resume on home snow.

The spotlight is unlikely to stray far from Vonn during two weeks of racing, prompting the skier to keep a low profile in the buildup to her first event on the Raptor racecourse.

"Windy out there today for the first downhill training run but still had fun," tweeted Vonn on Monday. "Looking forward to the super-g race tomorrow!!"

Vonn has been in sizzling form after topping the podium at the last two World Cup Super-Gs in St. Moritz and Cortina, crossing just ahead of Austrian rival Anna Fenninger, who will bid to add the world championship crown to her Olympic title.

The field will also include the last three world champions in the event, Vonn taking the gold in 2009 with Austrian Elisabeth Goergl the winner in 2011 and Slovenia's Tina Maze in 2013.

While Vonn has plenty of World Cup crystal and a world championship gold to show for her work in the discipline, the Super-G has not always been kind to the 30-year-old American.

At the 2013 championships in Schladming, Vonn left the course on a stretcher dangling beneath a helicopter after a devastating high speed crash left her with shredded knee ligaments, a broken leg and her racing future in doubt.

"The fact that she has had a such a long strong career and to have her come back so strong this season, I have a lot of appreciation for what she has done," said slalom Olympic and world champion Mikaela Shiffrin, Vonn's young U.S. team mate.

"Lindsey is the best speed skier in the world. I am really excited that she broke the record, I think she deserved it and it was only a matter of time."

When Vonn pushes out of the start hut on Tuesday on to a Raptor course described as one of the steepest in the sport, it will be her first race at the worlds since the Schladming crash put her on the sidelines for almost two seasons, costing her a chance to race at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)