Vonn escapes injury from early giant slalom crash

Lindsey Vonn hit her back during a crash Saturday but is believed to be OK.

Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

MARIBOR, Slovenia — World champion Anna Fenninger of Austria led a women’s World Cup giant slalom after the opening run Saturday, while Lindsey Vonn escaped injury in an early crash.

Vonn was the fastest starter and led Fenninger by 0.09 when the American slid off the course in a left turn with her skis coming off when she landed in the safety netting.

Vonn got up and smiled as she clicked her skis back on, but later looked in pain and limped as she was escorted out of the finish area by U.S. Alpine director Patrick Riml.

”She hit her back on the B-net poles pretty hard but should be all good,” Riml said after Vonn had a medical checkup, adding her surgically repaired right knee wasn’t hurt either.

Vonn finished 14th at the world championships last week but it was her first GS on the World Cup since she won here in January 2013, shortly before suffering the knee injury that kept her away from the Sochi Olympics the following year.

First starter Fenninger timed 1 minute, 11.62 seconds to lead Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany by 0.03. American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin and Italy’s Federica Brignone shared third, 0.24 behind.

”I wasn’t spot on everywhere,” Fenninger said. ”I was a bit conservative. I definitely can do more in the second run.”

Fenninger, who is the defending overall champion, can gain ground on leader Tina Maze. The Slovenian tops the GS standings, 184 points clear of the Austrian, but fell shortly before the finish of her home event and failed to score World Cup points.

Shiffrin trailed Fenninger by 0.43 at the first split but reduced her deficit significantly in the middle part of her run.

”It’s good for me to be that close to Fenninger as she is very strong,” the American said. ”I started to attack more during my run. It takes me a little while to get up to speed so I have to work on that.”

Vonn and Shiffrin were the only Americans in the field of 60 starters. Julia Mancuso, the 2006 Olympic champion, skipped the event and said on her Facebook page she was going to make a mountain trek with friends in the Alps.

The course held up well despite days of warm weather with temperatures rising over 10 degrees Celsius (50 F).