WHISTLER, British Columbia — Lindsey Vonn's leg is better. Her expectations are lower.
"It feels kind of nice to be the underdog!" she wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday, as she prepared to wrap up an Olympics she once was expected to dominate.
That's quite a role reversal, although maybe not unwarranted, going into Wednesday's giant slalom, the next-to-last women's event on the Alpine schedule.
Vonn claimed gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G, but she lost a lot of practice time while resting her right shin, which was badly bruised in a practice crash in Austria three weeks ago. Plus, the giant slalom is the only discipline where she has never cracked the podium on the World Cup circuit, and one where she will face a fresh crop of world-class challengers.
It's been three days since Vonn raced, and she took Sunday off altogether. She said she "felt pretty good" after two runs of GS training.
U.S. women's head coach Jim Tracy told The Associated Press that the shin is healing.
"I think it still bugs her a little bit, but it's definitely a little better," Tracy said.
"She skied really well, so we'll see how it goes," he added. "There are no expectations right now."
Vonn's best career giant slalom finish was fourth in Aspen, Colo., near her home in Vail, last season.
This season, Vonn has had trouble with the conditions on GS courses injected with water to create icier surfaces, and she blamed inconsistent conditions when she hurt her wrist in a fall in Lienz, Austria, at the end of December.
And while the GS is her weakest race, it features perhaps her strongest competition.
That starts with teammate Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley, Calif.
Mancuso is the defending Olympic champion, and while she has already won two silver medals at these games, she hasn't finished better than 13th in GS this season.
"I'm going to ski on a different pair of skis than I've skied on all year," Mancuso said. "They're just easier to turn, so I'm hoping that's the right decision. I've felt OK this year on my skis, but I haven't dialed it in, so why not just go for something different?
"They just have a little more sidecut. They're just easier. You don't have to put as much effort into it."
Vonn and Mancuso are tied for 28th in the World Cup GS standings, meaning they weren't able to get one of the coveted early start numbers reserved for the higher-ranked skiers. Instead, Vonn was drawn Tuesday night to start 17th, and Mancuso will start 18th.
Win or lose, it will be Mancuso's last event in these Olympics. She has decided to skip Friday's slalom.
"They asked if I wanted to race and it's my decision," Mancuso told the AP of her discussions with the U.S. Ski Team coaching staff. "It's just a lot of work to race another Olympic event, and as good as my slalom is, I honestly don't feel like it's good enough for a medal."
Slalom is Mancuso's worst event, but she was ninth-fastest in the slalom leg of the super-combined.
Her place on the U.S. slalom team is expected to be taken by Hailey Duke of Boise, Idaho, or Kaylin Richardson of Edina, Minn. The other three members will be Vonn, Sarah Schleper of Vail, Colo., and probably Megan McJames of Park City, Utah.
Vonn's challengers in the giant slalom include a bevy of well-rested GS specialists who have been training away from Whistler and just got to town this week: Denise Karbon of Italy, who won four consecutive giant slaloms back in 2007-08; Tanja Poutiainen of Finland, who was the silver medalist behind Mancuso four years ago and won the final GS before Vancouver this year, in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy; and GS world champion Kathrin Hoelzl of Germany.
Karbon said the group liked what they could see of the course from the air.
"We only saw it from the gondola," she said. "It looks real nice. It's full of bumps, and there aren't too many flats which would put us at a disadvantage."
Karbon has struggled with injuries throughout her career. She has undergone eight operations, the latest on her right knee in December, but says she's healthy now.
"The injury is forgotten now," Karbon said. "I'm able to go 100 percent in training."
She finished fourth in the GS at last season's world championships in Val d'Isere, France.
Hoelzl won that race, and has kept her form. She is the only skier to win two GS races this season, putting her atop the World Cup GS standings. Kathrin Zettel of Austria is second, Olympic super-G silver medalist Tina Maze is third and Poutiainen is fourth.
Also in the field is Swedish standout Anja Paerson. A two-time world champion in GS, she hasn't posted a victory in the event in four years, but she has proven her tenacity at Whistler and is chasing a seventh Olympic medal — which would move her past her former rival Janica Kostelic as the most successful female Alpine skier in Winter Games history.
She tied the record with a bronze in the super-combined, a day after a frightening crash in the downhill. Paerson lost control on the last jump and sailed about half a football field before landing on her back, tumbling through a gate and sliding across the finish line. She was badly bruised but no bones were broken, and she was back on the mountain in less than 24 hours.
"I've been skiing good in training and I feel very comfortable with my skis," Paerson said of the GS, "and everything is where I want it to be."