GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany -- Elisabeth Goergl of Austria won the super-G in the opening race of the world championships Tuesday, while Lindsey Vonn started despite a concussion and finished seventh.
Goergl mastered an icy course that produced several crashes, clocking 1 minute, 23.82 seconds over the 7,152-foot course. Julia Mancuso of the United States earned the silver and Maria Riesch of Germany was third.
Defending champion Vonn skied after sustaining a concussion during training last Wednesday in Austria.
"I think maybe it was the wrong decision to even try to race today, but I'm too stubborn," Vonn said. "I couldn't give up."
Vonn said she had trouble staying focused in the lower sections of the course in her first race back.
"Today was actually one of the worst days since the crash," she said. "I've had a really bad headache for most of the day, and inspection was awful. I couldn't really remember the course, I couldn't stay focused long enough to be able to inspect properly.
"When I was in the starting gate I felt OK, but three or four gates down I already knew I was out, it was done."
Goergl sang the official song of the championships at the opening ceremony on Monday and blazed down the Kandahar course to beat Mancuso by .05 seconds.
"I looked at the board and I saw that it was a fast time," said Goergl, who won her first major title. "It was a good run. ... You have to be aggressive and attack this course and I did what I'd planned to do."
The championship had been billed as a showdown between Riesch and three-time overall World Cup champion Vonn, but Goergl stole the show with a nearly flawless performance. Austrian coach Juergen Kriechbaum set the course.
"I like such conditions because I can put on the pressure," said Goergl, who won bronze in the downhill and the giant slalom at the Vancouver Olympics. "I did nearly everything right, except for some small mistakes at one or two gates. I wasn't nervous at the start and I wasn't nervous during my singing, but I was tense at the finish waiting for the others to come down."
Mancuso added another silver to her collection.
"You had to have guts to charge and just fight to the finish. Of course I wanted to fight and do my best and get a medal, so I'm stoked," Mancuso said. "I didn't start out too great on the top, I had a hard time getting into the rhythm and it was really bumpy."
Mancuso was silver medalist in the downhill and the super combined at the Vancouver Olympics and giant slalom champion four years earlier. She also had a super combined silver at the 2007 worlds, plus bronze medals in the giant slalom and super-G in 2005.
Vonn was not the same racer that had made the podium in her last 19 super-G races, winning 13.
"Every time I ski I can't concentrate. It's like I'm skiing in a fog," Vonn said. "My head just isn't thinking fast enough. I can't process the information fast enough and that's why I'm behind the course, all the bumps are throwing me around. It's because my body is one gate ahead of where my mind is, and that's not a good way to ski."
Vonn said she was not sure about the upcoming races.
"I have to really take the time to figure out what's more important to me: my health or trying to defend titles," she said.
Vonn, the Olympic downhill champion, criticized the course on the eve of the race, calling it unsafe.
"I knew it was dangerous. It's a dangerous hill because of the way they prepared the ice," Vonn said. "I knew that crashes were going to happen and that didn't really weigh in on my decision."
Several skiers crashed, including Olympic super-G champion Andrea Fischbacher of Austria, who slid down the icy slope for several hundred yards after clipping a gate, her skis flying off. She went through one safety net and stopped in the second. Austrian team officials said she was unhurt.
Gina Stechert of Germany also crashed and injured her hand.