By Simon Evans
WHISTLER (Reuters) - Lindsey Vonn's shin injury has cast doubt on her Olympic medal ambitions but her experienced rival Anja Paerson is expecting the American to be ready for battle and cannot wait to take her on.
The 28-year-old Paerson, a seven-times world champion, two-time overall World Cup winner and the Olympic gold medalist in slalom four years ago, is in contention again this time around and expects to be up against Vonn regardless of the bruised shin.
Vonn threw doubt on her participation in the Games when describing her injury as "excruciatingly painful" on Wednesday but a day later she was on her skis and ready for downhill training.
Although that training session was canceled due to fog and snow, Swede Paerson noted the presence of Vonn and believes it was a sign she will be ready.
"Lindsey went up today (Thursday) so I don't see her as injured. She was pretty much doing what everyone else was doing," Paerson told a news conference on Thursday.
"I can't say how serious it is. I just saw her in the bib so in my mind she is not injured because she is up at the start line.
"I have been skiing with Lindsey a long time and know she is a big fighter, she doesn't want to back down just because she has pain.
"That is the way we are, Alpine skiers, pretty much everyone of us have pain somewhere and we go out there and fight," she added.
Paerson, who also won bronze in downhill and combined in Turin in 2006, says it is understandable that Vonn is regarded as clear favorite in the downhill.
"Of course, why shouldn't people speak only of her -- she has won five of them, she has been pretty much the one to beat.
Riesch had been playing second fiddle to Vonn in the speed events but hit peak form just at the right time to beat the American in St Moritz last month and win her first downhill in more than three years.
Riesch, who has recovered from serious injuries which hampered her early career progress and cost her a place in Turin, is the world champion in slalom, her top event, but has finished on the podium in five out of six downhills this season.
Austrian Kathrin Zettel, the 23-year-old super-combined world champion, has hit her stride at just the right moment having failed only once to make the podium in six slalom races this season.
(Editing by Jon Bramley)