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Vonn's slalom ambitions put to test in Finland

 Athlete Lindsey Vonn attends the 20th annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall in New York, on Monday, Nov. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Peter ...
 Athlete Lindsey Vonn attends the 20th annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall in New York, on Monday, Nov. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Peter ...

Glamour Women Of The Year Awards Arrivals

Athlete Lindsey Vonn attends the 20th annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall in New York, on Monday, Nov. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Peter ...

Glamour Women Of The Year Awards Arrivals

Athlete Lindsey Vonn attends the 20th annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall in New York, on Monday, Nov. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Peter ...

Defending overall World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn goes head-to-head with German rival Maria Riesch on Saturday at this season's first slalom race in Finland.
The American three-time overall winner, known for her dominance in downhill and super-G, has focused her preseason training on increasing her ability to explode out of turns in the slalom and giant slalom.
The Olympic downhill champion's aim is to keep an advantage over Riesch, her best friend on the circuit and the Olympic slalom gold medalist. Riesch finished second in the overall standings behind Vonn the last two years, and is seeking to close the gap this season.
"I know her big goal is to beat me this year," Vonn said. "Not that it hasn't been the last years, but I feel extra pressure from her this year."
The event in Levi could give Vonn a good start. Two years ago she won her first World Cup slalom race here and last year she finished second, only eight-hundredths of a second behind Riesch.
Vonn has said she loves the Finnish hill, 170 kilometers (106 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, which reminds her of racing back in Minnesota, where she grew up.
The 25-year-old German traveled to Gallivare, Sweden on Monday to practice in similar conditions as those in Levi and escape the warm temperatures in central Europe. Riesch said she would have three perfect days of training.
"I like the race. In Finland, I have always had good results so far," she said.
Riesch and Vonn will also be up against home favorite Tanja Poutiainen and Austria's Marlies Schild, who won the slalom World Cup in 2007 and 2008, and the silver medal at the Vancouver Olympics.
On the men's side, Olympic slalom champion Giuliano Razzoli of Italy will make his season debut in Levi on Sunday. Razzoli missed the season opener in Soelden, Austria, due to a hand injury he sustained during preseason training, which required surgery.
He said the injury stopped him from skiing for a month and meant he couldn't practice with normal slalom gates until this week. Instead he spent time in the gym and focused on getting stronger.
"I'll do my best and we will see what happens," Razzoli said Friday. "My arm is better, it is OK."
He said he is still far from his best, but that the hopes he'll back at full strength by January.
He will be challenging defending World Cup slalom champion Reinfried Herbst and another Austrian, 2009 world champion Manred Pranger.
The Finnish crowd will be cheering for former slalom world champion Kalle Palander, who competes for the first time on home snow after a near three-year break brought on by a right-leg injury. The Finn made a strong comeback in the World Cup giant slalom opening in Soelden, posting the 11th fastest time, before fog forced organizers to call off the race.
"There have already been some really good parts in my runs, now it's only a matter of putting the pieces together," Palander said this week.
Racing conditions at the Levi Black piste are expected to be good and not terribly cold for the region _ the weekend temperature was forecast at minus 8 degrees C (18 F).
Levi, a small ski resort that is the world's most northernmost World Cup venue, is hosting cup slaloms for the fifth time since 2006. About 20,000 fans are expected.


Updated : 2021-10-22 15:19 GMT+08:00