Beyond Vonn and Goggia, challengers hope for a downhill upset

But challengers well capable of upset in women's blue riband event

A glance at the form book and women's downhill race at the Pyeongchang Olympics looks all about Lindsey Vonn versus Sofia Goggia.

The American "Queen of the Slopes", looking for her second Olympic downhill gold before she bows out of the Games, up against the carefree 25-year-old Italian upstart.

The bookmakers agree and the World Cup standings, where Goggia narrowly leads from Vonn, also suggests a duel between the pair.

Vonn, 33, won the last time the pair went head-to-head in a World Cup race in Garmisch, Germany, earlier this month with Goggia finishing second.

Before that, Goggia, the speed specialist from Bergamo, triumphed over the American in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria, and the pair shared a victory each in two downhills in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

Vonn has added to the sense of this being a head-to-head battle by talking this week about how she watches film of Goggia's line in training and makes appropriate adjustments.

She said after yesterday's training run: "It's all or nothing so there is really no reason to be nervous or think about pressure or expectation because either I win or I lose.

"And if I am nervous, I am going to lose anyway, so what's the point?"

Goggia played into the talk of a double bill by calling Vonn the "favourite".

If I am nervous, I am going to lose anyway, so what's the point? US ski queen Lindsey Vonn

She said: "It's not about putting that on her, it's just that she has so much experience.

"She has 81 World Cup victories, 131 podiums, etcetera, medals both at world championships and Olympics.

"It's like she has already made this, she knows how to do it."

But downhill skiing has a habit of producing the unexpected.

Look back just four years ago to the race in Sochi and - for the first time in the history of the event, there was a tie for gold.

Switzerland's Dominique Gisin and Slovenia's Tina Maze shared the top spot on the podium with Swiss Lara Gut taking the bronze.

While Gisin and Maze have retired, Gut is back and desperate to end her run of near-misses, which included a fourth place in the super-G, where she was knocked off the podium unexpectedly by the shock, late, winning run of Czech Ester Ledecka.

It is exactly one year since Gut underwent knee surgery after damaging her ACL, but she says she is in a positive mood.

"The challenge mentally is not to get back to the level you were before but - to take the new things you learnt through your injury and match that together with the person you were before," she said after training this week.

"I had things where I was stronger before my injury and I have things where I'm a lot stronger now. Then you have to combine everything and in the end realise, it's just yourself. And it's enough."

Liechtenstein's Tina Weirather showed her speed and comfort with the course by picking up bronze in the super-G on Saturday.

Weirather's mother, Hanni Wenzel, won downhill silver in Lake Placid in 1980 and remains the only Alpine skier from Liechtenstein, male or female, to claim a medal in the downhill.

Although Austria's Anna Veith, the super-G silver-medal winner, has decided not to compete in the downhill, the Austrians always have a challenger with Cornelia Huetter's win at Lake Louise, in Canada, on the World Cup circuit in December, a warning that she could be an outside threat, as could Switzerland's Michelle Gisin. - REUTERS