Following a mediocre weekend of technical races, Lindsey Vonn returned to the town where she became world champion with the best time of the opening training session for a World Cup downhill event.
Vonn finished in one minute 44.52 seconds Wednesday on the Oreiller-Killy course, 0.27 seconds ahead of Elisabeth Goergl of Austria. Fellow American Julia Mancuso was third, another tenth of a second back.
"It's nice for confidence," Vonn said. "The conditions out there are great."
Vonn won two consecutive downhills earlier this month in Lake Louise, Alta., and was narrowly beaten by Goergl in a super-G. The defending World Cup champion also won titles in downhill and super-G in Val d'Isere this year.
But she had disappointing results last week in Are, Sweden, where she finished eighth in a slalom and skied out in a giant slalom to slip to second place in the overall standings.
"We are always trying to find a better set up; we are always testing," she said. "It's just a matter of finding the perfect settings. But all is working well now."
A super combined is scheduled for Friday in Val d'Isere ahead of Saturday's downhill. The super-G will be held Sunday.
The 25-year-old Vonn is considered among the favourites in all three events.
"It's something that has never been done, and it definitely would be great," she said of a potential sweep. "But I don't expect to do it in Val d'Isere. It's really difficult to win the super combined, and everything can happen in downhill and super-G."
'A lot of concentration and precision'
Initially scheduled on the Solaise course, where Vonn won her world titles, the races have finally been relocated on the Oreiller-Killy course for better snow conditions.
"I really like racing on the world championships hill, but it's a really tough course over there. It takes a lot of concentration and precision," Vonn said. "This course on the other side is more fun and more easy going. It's not as challenging."
Vonn also said that she is a far more accomplished skier now compared to four years ago, when she won a cow in Val d'Isere. After her triumph in the downhill, she was awarded the animal by local French farmers.
"I have grown a lot as a person, an athlete and a ski racer," she said. "I know a lot more about my sport, about the lines and the technique. I have a lot more confidence. And physically, I'm a lot stronger than I was back then."
The 21-year-old Larisa Yurkiw of Canada fell hard during training and sustained a knee injury that could end her season, organizers said.
Vonn lost the World Cup overall lead to Maria Riesch of Germany last week in Are. The American's best friend and rival has 441 points while Vonn has 421. Riesch posted the 13th fastest time of Wednesday's training, completing her run in 1:46.23.