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Alpine skiing: US women eye early medal launchpad

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The vaunted US ski team has the perfect chance to get their medal run at the World Ski Championships off to a flying start in Tuesday's women's super-G, the opening event.

But the formidable Slovenian Tina Maze, the runaway leader in the overall standings, will be there, with Germany's giant slalom Olympic champion Viktoria Rebensburg and Austria's Anna Fenninger, Elisabeth Goergl and Andrea Fischbacher.

US starlet and media darling Lindsey Vonn, coming back from a stop-start early season which has seen her suffer a nasty fall, take a month out and be hospitalised with an intestinal ailment, headlines a crack US women's squad for the speed events.

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 Julia Mancuso are respectively second and third in the super-G standings.

That bodes well for two-time champion Vonn, who said: "Almost everyone has been on the podium already and everyone can win... the team is incredibly strong at the moment."

Vonn also has history on the 2.194km-long Planai slope, which features a drop of 569m, having won at last season'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," she said.

The super giant slalom, or the super-G as it is more commonly known, combines elements of the downhill and the giant slalom, and is decided over one race.

Skiers must negotiate widely-spaced gates, as in giant slalom, over a long course with speeds approaching those in downhill.

Unlike the downhill, skiers do not have the chance of a pre-race training run, only a one-hour visual inspection on the morning of the race.

Vonn and Mancuso, the super-G silver medallist in the last worlds in Garmisch two years ago, will be up against it.

Not only will there be Maze and in-form Fenninger, but also Goergl, who won super-G and downhill golds in the 2011 worlds, and Olympic champion Fischbacher.

Goergl has not hit the form of younger teammate Fenninger this season, but is showing signs of improvement, according to her Austrian team coaches.

All will be hoping that the snow continues to avoid Maze getting the techically demanding, icy slope she prefers.

lp13/phz

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130204/alpine-skiing-us-women-eye-early-medal-launchpad