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Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Vonn, racers pleased with Sochi 2014 course

Associated Press

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Lindsey Vonn had a positive first impression of the women's downhill course for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, while other skiers were concerned about the big jumps.

Vonn participated in a training run Wednesday before the World Cup races. She leads the downhill and super-combined standings and could clinch both discipline titles this weekend.

"I like it. The snow is a little bit soft and it was definitely windy today, but first impression was good," Vonn said about the Rosa Khutor slope and major test event for the games. "There's more terrain on this course than pretty much every World Cup that I've been to."

The first three skiers flew high off the slope's two big jumps, so course officials waved flags to slow skiers at those sections.

"I was really, really high the first jump. I was flying," said Johanna Schnarf of Italy, who was the first skier and led the session by 0.01 seconds ahead of Vonn.

Vonn started 15th and was flagged before the jumps, but that didn't stop her.

"The coaches said, 'If you feel like there's a headwind, then stop," Vonn said. "I felt the headwind, but I still didn't stop."

Women's World Cup director, Atle Skaardal, said both jumps would be shaved down.

"I don't think they're too big. Today was just an issue with a strong headwind. But they're just not going to take any chances," said U.S. Ski Team head coach Alex Hoedlmoser. "Our girls are good jumpers, so we're not really concerned."

Vonn holds a 230-point lead over Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein with two downhills remaining after the weekend. Entering the final super-combi, she's 55 points in front of Tina Maze of Slovenia and 60 points ahead of Nicole Hosp of Austria.

Vonn is aiming for her fifth consecutive downhill title and third straight in super-combi.

"I know what I have to do, but I try not to think about it," Vonn said. "It would just be great to win here, period. It's the Olympic track, so I want to get up to speed and see what I can do and really risk a lot so that I know what I'm capable of for the Olympics."

Two more training sessions are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, although snow is forecast.

Downhill world champion Elisabeth Goergl of Austria was pleased with the course.

"It's got everything in it -- really steep parts and jumps and nice, steep turns and flat parts and rolls -- so it's an interesting track," Goergl said. "It's definitely Olympic worth."

Like the men last week, the women are impressed with the amount of progress at a resort, which was built just a few years ago. While the area is not open to the public yet, there are already numerous gondolas and chairlifts in place and world-class slopes.

Down in the valley below, workers are building hotels, restaurants and shops -- plus rail and highway connections from the Black Sea coast 30 miles away.

Security men, wearing traditional Russian fur hats and carrying machine guns, patrolled the area.

"I feel like I'm in 'James Bond' or something," said American Alice McKennis.