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Vonn hopes to get back in the medal mix with super-G

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 20, 2010; D06

WHISTLER, B.C. -- Prior to the Vancouver Olympics, before Lindsey Vonn's banged-up shin was the subject of daily updates, the American skiing star figured to be a threat for multiple medals, with an outside chance of reeling in hardware in each of the five disciplines in which she would compete.

Now, after her spill in the slalom portion of Thursday's super combined -- a race in which Vonn's teammate, Californian Julia Mancuso, won her second silver medal in as many races -- five medals are out of the question. But if Vonn is going to add to her total and join Mancuso as a multiple medalist here, Saturday's super-G is her best chance.

As multitalented as Vonn is -- she has won the past two World Cup overall championships and leads the overall standings this season -- she is, at heart, a speed racer. Her gold medal in these Olympics came in the downhill, and she has won five of six World Cup downhill races this season. The super-G is the closest thing to the downhill, a long, fast course with sweeping turns. In five World Cup super-G races this season, Vonn has placed second once, third another time -- and has won the last three races. Move that kind of success to the Olympics, and she would win another medal.

There is, though, the matter of Vonn's bruised shin, which she just can't shake as either an injury or a story line. Vonn did not ski Friday, a measure she hopes will dull the pain and allow her to ski as she did in the downhill on Wednesday: aggressively and without concern.

"There was one day in between the downhill training run and the downhill race, and that seemed to help quite a bit," Vonn said. "So I hope that [Friday] helps and I'm definitely going to do as much therapy as humanly possible, and hope that I can be standing in the starting gate of the super-G confident and not in so much pain."

If Vonn skis a mistake-free run, it's hard to imagine her not on the podium. Switzerland's Fabienne Suter is second in the World Cup super-G standings, but she has only one podium finish, a second. Austria's Elisabeth Goergl beat Vonn by three hundredths of a second in the season's first super-G in December at Lake Louise, Alberta. The Swiss duo of Fraenzi Aufdenblatten and Nadia Styger beat her later that month in Val d'Isere, France.

Now, the contenders clearly include Mancuso, who is reveling in the spotlight. In five super-G races this season, Mancuso's best finish is 10th. But she loves the snow conditions at Whistler, where the softer, bumpier courses play to her strengths. She prefers them to the manicured, icy courses that are like "highways," she said, because the bigger athletes can naturally generate more speed, and Mancuso is relatively slight for a ski racer.

"The super-G I'm really looking forward to because . . . you really have to go for it, and it's difficult," Mancuso said. "It's going to catch girls off-guard again. I think that can be really strong for me."

Binding ruling

The International Ski Federation on Friday dismissed Austrian complaints that Swiss ski jumper Simon Ammann's bindings violated regulations, clearing him to keep using the same equipment in Saturday's large-hill event.

The Austrian team asked FIS on Thursday to review the bindings, saying the particular model Ammann uses had not been approved and was unsafe. They claim it helps him jump farther by improving his aerodynamics in the air.

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