By Steve Keating
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado (Reuters) - Lindsey Vonn retakes the world championship spotlight on Friday with the women's blue riband downhill set to deliver some high-speed thrills and excitement.
After winning bronze in the championship-opening Super-G on Tuesday, Vonn has quickly reset her sights on downhill gold and will push out of the start hut onto the challenging Raptor layout as the heavy favorite.
"I'm looking forward to Friday when it's supposed to be really good weather so hopefully we'll have a nice, fair race and I'll able to get another medal," said Vonn. "I can definitely ski better."
Injury prone Frenchwoman Marion Rolland will not be in Vail to defend the downhill crown she won two years ago after tearing knee ligaments in a World Cup Super-G last month in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.
But there will be plenty of quality in a field that includes in-form Slovenian Tina Maze, who shared Olympic gold in Sochi with Switzerland's Dominique Gisin, 2011 world champion Austrian Elisabeth Goergl and Vonn, the 2009 winner.
Maze, who is looking to medal in all five disciplines in Beaver Creek, launched her championship in style with a silver in Tuesday's Super-G, pushing Vonn into third.
"To be hungry every day is not easy ... staying hungry is one of the things I want," said Maze, the current overall World Cup leader.
Swiss speedster Lara Gut, comes into the race riding the momentum from a victory in the last downhill prior to the worlds and will be bubbling with confidence having won the only women's downhill ever contested at Beaver Creek.
Gut will be a skier to watch but all eyes will be on Vonn, who has also stood atop the podium in Beaver Creek winning a Super-G in 2012.
A world and Olympic downhill champion, Vonn arrived in Vail having claimed the mantle of the most successful women's skier of all-time with 64 World Cup wins, including two downhills this season.
In total, Vonn has recorded five World Cup victories in what has been a dazzling comeback campaign after a career-threatening crash at the Schladming worlds put her on the sidelines for almost two seasons.
"I had a short preparation period just because of my knee and my rehab, it took a long time," said Vonn. "I just needed a little bit more time to train and I certainly haven’t had that."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)