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Despite pain, Vonn still the one to beat

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 yesterday, 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 today's women's downhill training.

That would give her even more time to heal. She took painkillers and used numbing cream before yesterday'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 yesterday morning, but that was to be expected. And it didn't seem to hurt her skiing that morning. Though 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 run only half the course today, 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 tomorrow'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.

New York Sports