By Nick Mulvenney
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Austrian Ramona Siebenhofer set the pace in the final training run for the women’s downhill on Tuesday but Lindsey Vonn’s bid to reclaim the Olympic gold remained on course as she registered a top five time for the third day in a row.
Siebenhofer clocked one minute 40.67 seconds to top the timesheets with Swiss Michelle Gisin, whose now retired sister Dominique shared the 2014 downhill gold with Tina Maze, and Italian Nadia Fanchini 0.2 and 0.21 seconds further back.
American Vonn went out first, as she did when finishing sixth in the super-G last week, and raced down the Jeongseon slope in an impressive 1:40.96.
The 33-year-old, who won gold in Vancouver eight years ago but was unable to defend her title in Sochi because of injury, would have been disqualified in a race for missing one gate but was generally happy with her preparations.
“Everything feels pretty good, I definitely was trying a few things with line,” she told reporters.
“The reason I missed that gate was that I didn’t slip the line right, number one hasn’t been a good number for me. But I am not worried about it all.
“I think I will choose, I need to look at the video but some of the lines I took today were a little bit faster. But I am happy, solid training.”
Downhill World Cup leader Sofia Goggia appears to be the main threat to Vonn’s hopes and the Italian was not too far off the pace in 1:41.28, the 11th fastest time.
Goggia said she thought Vonn remained the race favorite.
“It’s not about putting that on her, it’s just she has so much experience,” she said.
“She has 81 World Cup victories, she has 131 podiums etcetera, medals both at world championships and Olympics. It’s like she has already made this, she knows how to do it.”
Mikaela Shiffrin, who decided to pull out of the downhill on Monday night, took advantage of the final training run to prepare for the combined, which has been brought forward to Thursday because of forecast high winds.
The American, who won the giant slalom last week, showed again that she will be a force to be reckoned with in Thursday’s race by setting the fifth fastest time in 1:41.01, also missing the same gate as Vonn.
Anna Veith and Tina Weirather, who won silver and bronze in the super-G, decided not to take advantage of the final training run to rest up for Wednesday’s race.
Czech Ester Ledecka, who stunned the Alpine world with her victory in the other women’s speed race, did not take part in any of the three training sessions as she turned her attention to her snowboard events and so will not be able to compete.
The leading skiers get to select their place in the draw in order of their positions in the World Cup standings and Vonn said she was hoping to go out behind Goggia on Wednesday.
“I like knowing what times my competitors get and how they are skiing so, I will have to see what she gets,” Vonn said.
“Before 10 or nine is ideal. But we will see what Sofia picks.”
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)