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Alpine skiing: US speed ladies plan run on gold

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The US speed queens are looking to conquer the medal table at the World Ski Championships opening Monday in Schladming, Austria with Lindsay Vonn and Julia Mancuso leading the pack of gold-hungry ladies.

"I think it's very possible that the Americans could dominate the podium here," Vonn, two-time world champion and US alpine skiing's sweetheart, said ahead of the two weeks of competition.

"Almost everyone has been on the podium already and everyone can win... the team is incredibly strong at the moment."

Vonn and teammates Stacey Cook, Alice McKennis and Leanne Smith are in the top six of the current World Cup downhill rankings, while Vonn and Mancuso are respectively second and third in the super-G.

"I thrive off of challenges and this is just a new challenge so I'm excited about it and definitely getting ready to get my game face on," said the typically combative Vonn, 28.

The four-time overall World Cup champion had to make do with just downhill silver at the last world championships in Garmisch in 2011 but will be performing on a course that worked well for her in last year's World Cup finals.

"The downhill and super-G are great tracks for me. I skied really well in the finals last year so I have a good feeling here," said the Olympic champion and 12-time World Cup crystal globe winner.

"I feel really strong in those two events and I look forward to trying to get a medal."

"I love racing, I love competing. When there's a bigger challenge, I like that more.

Leanne Smith, 25, who grabbed her first two World Cup podiums this season, agreed: "Coming into a big event like this you're going to be expecting a lot out of yourself."

"I'd like to grab a podium, so I'm going to come out firing," she promised.

Mancuso -- a strong performer in big events with two silver Olympic medals in Vancouver and super-G silver in Garmisch -- seemed unfazed by the upcoming competition.

"I really enjoy the championship races. I don't really feel extra pressure, I just want to go fast."

The US ladies' head coach Alex Hoedlmoser will have the tough task of choosing who will take part in Sunday's downhill race with six skiers competing for four spots.

"We have to have two girls sitting out that are able to actually medal," he said.

"It's going to be a very difficult decision because all of them have proven that they can be up there."

Marco Sullivan meanwhile vowed the US men will not be outdone by their female colleagues, despite their less impressive recent performances.

"We're ready for this hill, it's a good hill, lots of terrain. It's fast and we're going to be in there," he promised.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130203/alpine-skiing-us-speed-ladies-plan-run-gold