PARIS (AFP) - US speed queen Lindsey Vonn will bid to put almost two years of injury heartbreak behind her when she makes her return to the World Cup circuit this season.
Tellingly for the 30-year-old American, the 2015 World Ski Championships are being held on home snow, in the Colorado resort of Beaver Creek from Feb 2-15, an added incentive for a skier arguably looking at the tailend of her career.
"Obviously I can do well in the world championships. I try to not push pressure on myself, I'm taking it slower than last year, and hopefully I'll be able to be on the podium again," said Vonn, a four-time world champion (2008-12).
"I'm not focused on the overall title this season, I'm just focused on trying to win races and trying to get back on the podium."
Vonn, who will make her season debut in Lake Louise, also has Austrian legend Annemarie Moser-Proell's World Cup victory tally of 62 in her sights.
"Hopefully, I can get four more wins and break the record of 62. It would be amazing, to be the best female skier in the World Cup ski ever," said Vonn, who made a short-lived return to competition last season after a serious knee injury sustained at the 2013 world championships in Schaldming.
Defending overall champions are Austrian duo Marcel Hirscher and Anna Fenninger, but the looming hulk of Aksel Lund Svindal will be a notable absentee in the men's competition for at least three months.
The Norwegian ski great, a five-time world champion and 2010 Olympic super-G gold medallist, suffered a freak torn Achilles tendon while playing football after a team training session in Soelden, where the season gets under way this weekend.
The two-time overall World Cup winner underwent surgery on Sunday and could be ruled out of the world championships, where he would have been defending his downhill title.
Vonn will not be alone in flying her country's colours, the US team also featuring world and Olympic slalom gold medallist Mikaela Shiffrin and giant slalom master Ted Ligety.
One of Ligety's main rivals will be Austrian Hirscher, who said getting things off to a good start in Soelden were crucial in his bid to retain his crystal globe, although the thought of being injured still plagued him.
"It's very important," he said of the weekend's racing. "If it all goes well there, it gives a positive direction for what follows, for Levi and the North American races.
"I'm terrified of being injured. If that doesn't happen to me, that would be great. And of course to succeed!"
With Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch having retired at the end of last season after a glittering career, women's champion Fenninger admitted it would be "fantastic" should she turn out to have a duel with Vonn.
"I don't think, however, that we'll be the only two battling!" she said. "I hope to be able to fight, but I think there are many others also capable of doing so.
"Last year already showed that the youngsters were upping pressure to take control, the likes of Lara Gut or Tina Weirather.
"It will be very tough, you can't let the slightest thing go. The season is very long. We saw last season that in the last third I was able to score a lot of points. Lots of things can happen over a long winter and you have to battle from the start to the end."