Lindsey Vonn to defend overall World Cup lead in first visit to Swiss slope

7th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Lindsey Vonn is preparing to defend her lead in the overall World Cup standings at a venue unknown to her.

7 March 2008

GENEVA - Lindsey Vonn is preparing to defend her lead in the overall World Cup standings at a venue unknown to her.

The 23-year-old American's approach, however, remains the same.

"It's my first time being here and skiing on the slope," Vonn said after her training run Thursday at Crans-Montana, which will host a women's downhill Saturday and super-combined Sunday.

"It's really not that challenging of a hill. It's kind of low speed," Vonn added. "Sometimes courses that aren't difficult can actually be more challenging because you really can't make any mistakes."

The World Cup last visited Crans-Montana almost 10 years ago for the 1998 finals.

Then, the women's downhill was called off because Picabo Street was injured after crashing into some netting at the top of the course. The American broke her left femur, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and was sidelined for two seasons.

Street, the 1995 and '96 downhill champion, returned to complete her career and mentor teenager Lindsey Kildow.

"I only know of the crash from her book," said Vonn, who changed her name when she got married last September. "It's pretty flat here, a little bit bumpy in some sections, so I'm not really thinking about crashing."

Vonn won the downhill title at Whistler, British Columbia, last month, and is 54 points ahead of Nicole Hosp of Austria in the overall standings with six races remaining.

"I'm trying to keep it at one race at a time but it's always hard when everyone is telling you how many points there are and how many you are in the lead or behind. It's always a pretty big drama," she said. "I've gotten a pretty good routine down that I'm really comfortable with. I'm going in trying to ski solid, not risking too much."

A steady training run Thursday saw Vonn post the sixth-fastest time, 0.42 seconds behind Daniela Ceccarelli of Italy.

Victory on Saturday, however, would re-write the U.S. record book.

Vonn has nine career World Cup downhill wins and a 10th would lift her out of a tie with Street and Daron Rahlves. Just as important for now, is stretching her lead over Hosp, who is favored in Sunday's race.

"The super-combined is a downhill and a slalom. I feel like I have more of an advantage here than at Whistler, where it was a super-G and a slalom, which is a bit harder for me," Vonn said.

"They have a lot of soft snow on the top section but underneath it's a really good surface, pretty hard. If they can keep working on it and get that new snow out of there it'll be a really good track."

A hectic end to the season sends the women's and men's skiers to Italy next week, where World Cup finals begin at Bormio on Wednesday.

"It's going to be a tough two weeks because we don't have any more days off from here on out," Vonn said. "I think I've done a good job planning up to now. I had taken a week off before Whistler so I feel like I have plenty of energy."

[Copyright ap 2008]

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