Cook tops training as Maze eyes five medals
US skier Stacey Cook clocked the fastest time in the women's third downhill training run here on Saturday, as other favourites sat it out having completed a gruelling race schedule on the same piste all week.
The 28-year-old Cook, currently second in the downhill World Cup rankings behind injured teammate Lindsey Vonn, timed 1min 50.87sec, ahead of France's Marion Rolland at 1.83sec, with Austrian Stefanie Moser a further 0.51sec adrift.
The women downhill skiers were given the possibility of three training outings on the 3,050m-long Streicher course, ahead of Sunday's world championship race.
But favourites like Slovenia's Tina Maze -- already a double medallist in Schladming -- and Austrian pin-up Anna Fenninger, as well as compatriot and reigning downhill world champion Elisabeth Goergl chose not to start on Saturday.
Former World Cup overall champion, Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany who took downhill bronze in the 2012 race, also opted to sit out the final training run.
The women speed specialists have had an intense race and training schedule in this first world championship week, starting with the super-G on Tuesday, two downhill trainings and the super-combined on Friday.
A quartet of US racers will desperately bid to fill the sizeable hole left by Vonn, injured in a bad crash during the super-G, when they compete in the blue ribband race on Sunday.
Aside from Cook, teammates Alice McKennis, Leanne Smith and Julia Mancuso also feature in the top 11 of the World Cup downhill rankings.
McKennis and Mancuso were 4secs behind Cook in training with Smith still further behind. Their compatriot Laurenne Ross beat them to the finish with the eighth fastest time.
Austrian Regina Sterz, who was fastest in the first two trainings on Wednesday and Thursday, had 3sec on Cook.
Mancuso goes into the race with a super-G bronze already in her pocket, but the Americans will come up against a combative Maze, who has been on a winning streak this season and leads the overall, giant slalom and super-G World Cup rankings.
Although downhill is not her speciality, the 29-year-old Slovenian has already announced she is looking to bag medals in every remaining discipline at the world championships.
"I didn't think about that coming here. Two golds were my goal," she said after her super-combined silver medal, which she admitted had been a disappointment at first.
"But when people started to talk about five medals, I thought they wouldn't think that if it wasn't possible.
"The doors are open... I will try to do my best in each discipline. It's not easy, but that's the most interesting part.
"To handle the pressure and just be relaxed and have fun."