Lindsey Vonn training again in Austria
Alpine skier took unexpected break in mid-December
Lindsey Vonn is feeling better and has returned to Europe and started training again as she prepares to return to the World Cup circuit after an unscheduled midseason break.
Rainer Salzgeber, the racing director of Vonn's equipment supplier Head, told The Associated Press that the four-time overall winner arrived in Austria on Wednesday and began light training on Thursday.
Salzgeber said Vonn was planning to race in the downhill and super-G in St. Anton, Austria, on Jan. 12-13.
Vonn has not competed since falling in the opening run of a giant slalom in Courchevel, France, on Dec. 16. After that race, the American announced she was going home to fully recover from an intestinal illness that landed her in the hospital in November.
Vonn has been joined by her ski technician, Heinz Haemmerle.
"Heinz said she did a lot of free skiing today, and did some (giant slalom)," Salzgeber said. "The plan has always been for her to come back at St. Anton."
Returning in St. Anton would mean missing a total of six races, giving Vonn little chance of defending the overall title. She has dropped from fourth to sixth in the standings, and is 725 points behind leader Tina Maze of Slovenia.
U.S. women's head coach Alex Hoedlmoser wouldn't confirm Vonn's return in St. Anton yet.
"We all want her to come back and she obviously wants to race but it will depend on how well things are going during training the next couple of days," he said. "The first downhill training is (next) Thursday so there is no hurry, we still have some time left."
After St. Anton, the women have a slalom in Flachau, Austria, followed by more speed races in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, the next weekend.
It remains unclear if Vonn will enter every event the rest of the season.
"That depends on how it goes," Salzgeber said.
Race to redemption
However, returning in St. Anton — on a course Vonn has won on before — gives her plenty of time to get back into top form for the season's highlight, the world championships in Schladming, Austria, from Feb. 5-17. A year before the Sochi Olympics, Vonn will be looking to regain the downhill and super-G world titles that Austria's Elisabeth Goergl took from her two seasons ago when Vonn was slowed by a mild concussion.
Vonn stayed two nights in a hospital in Vail, Colorado in November after suffering from severe intestinal pain. She then returned and won three consecutive races in Lake Louise, Alberta.
Vonn also won a super-G in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Dec. 8, but struggled in her last three races — even making an uncharacteristic fall in downhill, her best event, in Val d'Isere, France.
With 57 career wins, Vonn needs just five more to match all-time leader Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria.
Vonn is training in Hinterreit, the Austrian resort where she crashed badly in training before worlds two seasons ago, ending up with a mild concussion.
Teammate Bode Miller, meanwhile, has still not started training as he works his way back from left knee surgery at the end of last season.
Salzgeber said Miller was still expected back in Europe at the end of the month, but likely won't race this season.
"I don't know what he expects, but I don't expect it," Salzgeber said.