ST. MORITZ, Switzerland â€” Lindsey Vonn took a cautious look at the downhill course Wednesday in the first practice run at world championships and finished more than two seconds behind leader Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia.
"I just wanted to get a feeling for the course," said Vonn, who was 12th on an overcast morning that made visibility tricky. "I was just skiing down solid and trying to build my confidence again."
The American failed to complete the super-G race Tuesday and had problems with her right hand, three months after she broke her upper arm.
Two more downhill practices are scheduled before Sunday's marquee race, and Vonn should get a further look at the slope in the opening downhill leg of the combined race on Friday.
Mirjam Puchner crashed off a jump during Wednesday's training run and was airlifted from the mountain. The 24-year-old Austrian won the previous downhill held on the 2.6-kilometre (1 3/5-mile) Engiadina course at the World Cup finals last year.
Puchner broke the tibia and fibula in her right leg and suffered a concussion, race organizers said. She underwent surgery at a hospital in St. Moritz.
Race director Atle Skaardal said the jump was judged to be safe after the takeoff and landing areas were evaluated.
In Vonn's absence this season, Stuhec won the first three World Cup downhills plus a super-G last month.
Stuhec reached the fastest speed Tuesday in the super-G, won by Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria, and got close to 120 kph (75 mph) in downhill practice.
The 26-year-old Slovene was 0.43 seconds faster than Fabienne Suter of Switzerland. Teammate Lara Gut was third fastest, one day after taking super-G bronze.
Another Swiss, Jasmine Flury, was fourth fastest, showing the home team's comfort level on a slope that regularly hosts its annual national championships.
Still, an American reached the fastest speed when Breezy Johnson topped 121 kph (75 mph).
"It's a lot of fun," Johnson said of the course. "The jumps are big but I think they are really pretty well built and none of them are too flat."
Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., was the top Canadian in 23rd place. Valerie Grenier of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was 32nd, Toronto's Candace Crawford was 43rd and Mikaela Tommy of Wakefield, Que., was tied for 52nd.
Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press