SCHLADMING, Austria (AP) — This year, Lindsey Vonn isn't the only favorite in the super-G at the world skiing championships.
The American has won the World Cup super-G title for four straight seasons, but Vonn is only now regaining speed after a mid-season break to shrug off health problems, and several rivals have been showing the kind of form that could earn them the gold medal in Tuesday's opening race.
Despite winning two of four races this season, Vonn isn't even leading the discipline standings. She trails Tina Maze of Slovenia by four points. "I like the track," Vonn said. "It's a little bit on the flat side. In general it's a really good hill. In downhill and super-G, I feel really strong."
At last season's World Cup finals on the same course in Schladming, Vonn won the downhill and led the super-G race by more than a second before almost skiing off course shortly before the finish and placing sixth.
"I was skiing very well but made a very big mistake in the end," Vonn said about that race, which was won by Viktoria Rebensburg. The German used to be a giant slalom specialist but has been improving in speed events in the last two seasons. She won the most recent super-G in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, two weeks ago.
Maze claimed her first super-G victory in St. Anton, Austria, in January to become the sixth female skier to win World Cup races in all five Alpine disciplines. "Tina is having an incredible season," said Vonn, who is likely to lose her overall World Cup title to the Slovenian. "I don't really compare myself to her as I had that break and missed so many races."
Vonn's teammate Julia Mancuso finished in the top six of each super-G this season, including a second and a third place. The American is third behind Maze and Vonn in the discipline standings and usually performs well at major championships.
"It's nice to have a little break (from the World Cup) and to put more focus into these races," said Mansuco, who won silver at the worlds in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, two years ago. "I really enjoy the championship races," Mancuso said. "I don't really feel extra pressure. I just want to go fast."
Austria will field the defending world champion, Elisabeth Goergl, and the 2010 Olympic champion, Andrea Fischbacher, but both have failed to make an impact this World Cup season, with Fischbacher's 10th-place finish in St. Anton being the pair's best result.
However, Anna Fenninger might give the Austrian home crowd something to cheer. She is having the best super-G season of her career with two podiums. "Maybe I am among the favorites," Fenninger said. "I haven't won a race but I am feeling strong in super-G."