Eyeing return next week, Vonn arrives in Austria

AP - Sports

Lindsey Vonn is about to start training in Europe as she prepares for a possible return from right knee surgery at next week's World Cup opener.

Alex Hoedlmoser, women's coach of the U.S. team, told The Associated Press that Vonn was set to arrive in Soelden, Austria, on Monday and planned to train on snow beginning Tuesday. The opening race of the season is the giant slalom in Soelden on Oct. 26.

''If she feels like she can podium then she's probably going to (race),'' Hoedlmoser said by phone from Austria. ''But if not, if she doesn't feel like she's 100 percent, we're going to give here those weeks off until the U.S. races (on Thanksgiving weekend).''

The coach added that it's ''totally a day-by-day decision.''

Vonn shredded her anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in a crash at the world championships in Schladming, Austria, last February. The original timetable didn't even have the reigning Olympic downhill champion in ski boots until November, but when the U.S. team traveled to Portillo, Chile, for training camp in August, Vonn was there.

''We're going to continue on where we left off in Chile and see how things go,'' Hoedlmoser said. ''Everything started out pretty promising. We just got to go into this training block and see how she's doing.''

Vonn said this month that starting in Soelden was ''definitely a possibility,'' adding, ''I have to get over there and see how I feel.''

Vonn's best events are downhill and super-G, however, and giant slalom would represent a major test for her surgically repaired leg.

Hoedlmoser was impressed with he saw in Portillo.

''You do an on-snow progression with injured athletes and you see how much you can push that,'' he said. ''By the end of the camp she was skiing super-G and GS like nothing really happened.''

Vonn said her knee held up perfectly in Chile, with no pain or swelling. And even though she missed the team's technical camp in New Zealand in August, Hoedlmoser said she has the experience to overcome the lack of miles.

''It's not really race prep we're going with her,'' he said. ''We're just continuing on with the progression and then we'll see where she's at.''

Hoedlmoser, meanwhile, has to recuperate from injury, too. He broke his foot in a fall on stairs in his home.

''Better it's me than the athletes,'' the coach said, adding he'll still be joining Vonn and teammate Mikaela Shiffrin on the slopes this week - on one ski.

''We've got to be out there,'' Hoedlmoser said. ''There's no other way.''

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