By Steve Keating
PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Olympic skiing champion Lindsey Vonn said on Wednesday her recovery from a devastating knee injury is ahead of schedule and that she may compete in the season-opening World Cup race later this month.
The 28-year-old American said the latest she will return to the World Cup circuit will be the November 29-December 1 event in Beaver Creek, Colorado, but did not rule out the October 26 season-opener in Soelden, Austria.
"I haven't really reached the final stage of my skiing yet but I'm feeling so strong and ready that I'm bringing the possibility of racing in Soelden back into the mix," Vonn said during a video conference from Dublin, Ohio, where boyfriend Tiger Woods is competing in the Presidents Cup.
"When I was looking at the plan and the timeline it did not seem like it would be at all possible to do that but ... I'm quite a bit further than I anticipated and pretty much everyone else anticipated."
The woman's giant slalom high on the glacier above Soelden will mark the first step in the buildup to the 2014 Sochi Olympics where Vonn plans to defend her downhill crown.
After months of painful rehabilitation, Vonn returned to snow just four weeks ago in Portillo, Chile.
It was her first time on skis since shredding her anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in a horrific crash at the world championships last February that left her screaming in pain on the side of the course.
A four-time overall World Cup champion and the most successful American woman's skier of all time, Vonn has 59 World Cup wins and needs just four more to eclipse Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell's record of 62.
However, Vonn said she will not return to competition until she is a 100 percent fit.
"It's not that I don't trust my knee or don't feel 100 percent physically up to par but I haven't pushed it yet," said Vonn, who also won a bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
"A lot of times other athletes are afraid to trust their knee but that's not the case with me, my knee feels great, I don't have any pain, I don't have any swelling it's just a matter of pushing to that next level and feeling comfortable going fast.
"It's just a matter of breaking through to the unknown. I haven't pushed it to that next level yet but I am confident that when I do it will be good."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)