Vonn leads pack in women’s alpine skiing

On her first run in the giant slalom event in Lienz on Dec. 28, American skier Lindsey Vonn crashed, was taken to the hospital and had her bruised arm placed in a splint.

She raced in the slalom event the very next day.

It is this resiliency, combined with her strength and speed, that all other competitors will have to contend with at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.

Vonn is the undisputed favourite to win multiple medals, potentially in all five disciplines. She currently sits at the top of the overall World Cup standings, and is the leader in three of the alpine skiing events – downhill, super-G, and combined.

Her dominance this season includes winning five downhill races in a row, and she also took her final event before the Olympics, the super-G in St. Moritz on Jan. 31.

“Now I feel like I’m ready,” Vonn told the Associated Press. “I’m definitely in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Mentally and physically prepared.”

Canada’s women’s team lost a strong medal hopeful early in the season when Kelly VanderBeek suffered a season-ending knee injury while training in December.

Canada’s top chances at a medal now come from Emily Brydon and Britt Janyk. Brydon recognizes the challenge ahead.

“If you look at the reality of it, the two medal hopefuls now for women are Britt and I,” she told the Canadian Press. “That is a lot of pressure on two people’s shoulders.

“We’ve been dealt a really difficult hand. Unfortunately you have to play with the hand you have.”

Brydon currently is fifth in the downhill standings, while Janyk sits 13th. Both had strong results earlier in the season, with Brydon finishing on the podium twice.

At a World Cup event in Lake Louise in December, she placed second in downhill on the first day and followed it up with a third-place run in the second downhill event 24 hours later.

Janyk finished fourth and eighth in the same races.

Since then, however, both have had muted results, and will need to turn it up to be podium threats in Whistler.

Germans strong

Germany is sending a strong women’s team to the Games, with Maria Riesch and Kathrin Hoelzl leading the way. If anyone is to beat Vonn, it is Riesch, who sits just behind Vonn in the overall standings and in downhill.

Both German women also sit atop the leader board in the two disciplines in which Vonn isn’t the strongest — Riesch in slalom and Hoelzl in giant slalom.

Riesch also was the skier who broke Vonn’s streak of five consecutive downhill wins, taking the World Cup downhill event on Jan. 30.

Austria’s Kathrin Zettel and Elisabeth Goergl are also strong medal contenders heading into the Olympics. Zettel is a favourite in slalom and giant slalom, while Goergl is a good possibility in the super-G and combined.

Other top skiers include Sweden’s Anja Paerson, Slovenia’s Tina Maze, and Switzerland’s Fabienne Suter. In the World Cup standings, Paerson is third overall, third in downhill, and second in combined.

Maze’s big medal opportunity comes in the giant slalom and Suter is a strong threat in the super-G.

The remaining women on Canada’s alpine ski team are Brigitte Acton, Marie-Michele Gagnon, Anna Goodman, Shona Rubens, and Erin Mielzynski.

Women’s races will take place on Franz’s Run in Whistler, B.C. on Feb. 14, 17, 20, 24, and 26.