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Associated Press, Published February 16 2010

Olympics: Vonn’s shin feels effects of bumpy course

WHISTLER, British Columbia – Clearly, Lindsey Vonn’s badly bruised right shin still hurts.

Even more clearly, though, it doesn’t hurt enough to keep her from being the one to beat.

Charging down a bumpy and jarring course Monday, Vonn turned in the fastest time in the upper section during downhill training – a development that shocked even her. She finished the more demanding portion of the day’s two runs in 1 minute, 30.75 seconds, or 0.39 seconds faster than teammate Julia Mancuso. Later, skiing the much shorter bottom section after the men’s downhill race, Vonn finished in 18.52 seconds, good for 20th and 0.73 seconds behind Sweden’s Anja Paerson.

With those two runs, a message was clearly sent: Bad shin and all, Vonn is still the odds-on favorite.

Like her rivals ever believed anything else.

“I don’t think that it’s too bad,” said Maria Riesch, who finished the upper section 1.79 seconds behind Vonn. “I know this kind of injury. It’s really painful. But I think for skiing she’s OK. Definitely looks like that.”

Those runs now behind her, Vonn is hoping for some intervention from Mother Nature. She wouldn’t mind seeing a little adverse weather roll in and postpone Tuesday’s women’s downhill training. That would give her even more time to heal.

She took painkillers and used numbing cream before Monday’s training session, but the weather-beaten slope definitely didn’t do her any favors.

“The course here is just so bumpy,” Vonn said. “It’s one thing when you inspect it and you’re like, ‘OK, this is going to be a little rattley.’ But it was jarring. It was a fight just to make it down the whole way.”

Vonn, the two-time defending World Cup overall champion, bruised the right shin during a pre-Olympic practice in Austria on Feb. 2. She stayed off skis for more than a week, but tested the injury – with encouraging results – in an unofficial slalom training run Sunday.

The shin was a little tender Monday morning, but that was to be expected. And it didn’t seem to hurt her skiing that morning.

While the afternoon run was shorter, it provided arguably the biggest obstacle – a giant jump near the finish.

“That really hurt,” Vonn said. “It’s throbbing really bad.”

That’s why if race officials decide to only run half the course Tuesday, Vonn may elect to skip it. She’s already met the requirement, according to race rules, of all skiers running the course on the same day at least once.

So she’s all set for the Wednesday’s downhill – bumps, pain and all.

“I just have to be able to grit my teeth and fight through it on Wednesday and hopefully I can still come out on top,” Vonn said.

For the record, she still plans on competing in all five Alpine events.

“I don’t see any reason why she’d pull out of any of them,” said Thomas Vonn, who serves as coach and adviser to his wife. “She knows she’s going to be ready (Wednesday), but she expected it to hurt less today than it did. That’s kind of where it’s at on that front.”

Before Monday, the women’s downhill training run was wiped out three times by weather. The delays due to fog, snow and rain have definitely helped Vonn but have left the course in less than stellar condition.

“It’s so bumpy,” said Riesch, Vonn’s rival and close friend. “It’s just a fight from the top to the bottom, and that’s not so much fun. But everybody has to do it. I hope they maybe get it a little bit smoother for the race.”

The downhill is Vonn’s best event – she has five of six on the World Cup circuit this season – but her competitors aren’t wishing her ill.

“I would like to win gold knowing that I beat her,” said Canadian skier Britt Janyk.

U.S. skier Stacey Cook was 20th after the top section, 1.89 seconds behind Vonn, but that was secondary to her. The morning run for Cook was all about easing her mind after her crash during Thursday’s abbreviated training schedule. She was the second – and final – women’s skier to go through the course, before training was halted because of thick fog and low visibility.

Cook said she remembers nothing about the crash, which left her with pain and stiffness but no serious injuries.

“But just knowing that it happened and knowing to go back out there and do it again, it was so hard,” said Cook, who’s from Mammoth, Calif. “My body feels fine. I can work through all that, and there was so much adrenaline. Just mentally I was so nervous in the start.”

In the shorter afternoon run, Cook had a solid performance, finishing 0.59 seconds behind Paerson’s time.

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AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen contributed to this story.