GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany Elisabeth Goergl of Austria won the super-G in the opening race of the world championships Tuesday, while Lindsey Vonn started despite a concussion and finished seventh.
Goergl mastered an icy course that produced several crashes, clocking 1 minute, 23.82 seconds over the 7,152-foot course.
Julia Mancuso of the United States earned the silver, and Maria Riesch of Germany was third.
Vonn, the defending champion, skied after suffering a concussion during training last Wednesday in Austria.
I think maybe it was the wrong decision to even try to race (Tuesday), but Im too stubborn, Vonn said. I couldnt give up.
Vonn said she had trouble staying focused in the lower sections of the course in her first race back.
(Tuesday) was actually one of the worst days since the crash, she said. Ive had a really bad headache for most of the day, and inspection was awful. I couldnt really remember the course, I couldnt stay focused long enough to be able to inspect properly.
When I was in the starting gate I felt OK, but three or four gates down I already knew I was out; it was done.
Goergl sang the official song of the championships at the opening ceremony Monday, then blazed down the Kandahar course Tuesday to beat Mancuso by .05 seconds.
I looked at the board, and I saw that it was a fast time, said Goergl, who won her first major title. It was a good run. ... You have to be aggressive and attack this course, and I did what Id planned to do.
The championship had been billed as a showdown between Riesch and three-time overall World Cup champion Vonn, but Goergl stole the show with a nearly flawless performance. Austrian coach Juergen Kriechbaum set the course.
I like such conditions because I can put on the pressure, said Goergl, who won bronze in the downhill and the giant slalom at the Vancouver Olympics. I did nearly everything right, except for some small mistakes at one or two gates. I wasnt nervous at the start, and I wasnt nervous during my singing, but I was tense at the finish waiting for the others to come down.
Mancuso added another silver to her collection.
You had to have guts to charge and just fight to the finish. Of course I wanted to fight and do my best and get a medal, so Im stoked, Mancuso said. I didnt start out too great on the top; I had a hard time getting into the rhythm, and it was really bumpy.
Mancuso was silver medalist in the downhill and the super combined at the Vancouver Olympics and giant slalom champion four years earlier. She also had a super combined silver at the 2007 worlds, plus bronze medals in the giant slalom and super-G in 2005.
Vonn was not the same racer that had made the podium in her last 19 super-G races, winning 13.
Every time I ski I cant concentrate. Its like Im skiing in a fog, Vonn said. My head just isnt thinking fast enough. I cant process the information fast enough, and thats why Im behind the course, all the bumps are throwing me around. Its because my body is one gate ahead of where my mind is, and thats not a good way to ski.
Vonn said she was not sure about the upcoming races.
I have to really take the time to figure out whats more important to me: my health or trying to defend titles, she said.
Vonn, the Olympic downhill champion, criticized the course on the eve of the race, calling it unsafe.
I knew it was dangerous. Its a dangerous hill because of the way they prepared the ice, Vonn said. I knew that crashes were going to happen, and that didnt really weigh in on my decision.
Several skiers crashed, including Olympic super-G champion Andrea Fischbacher of Austria, who slid down the icy slope for several hundred yards after clipping a gate, her skis flying off. She went through one safety net and stopped in the second. The Austrian team initially said she was unhurt, then later reported that she bruised her leg in several places.
Gina Stechert of Germany also crashed and injured her hand.
Riesch, the overall World Cup leader who is racing in her hometown on the slope she raced as a child, was ahead of her rival and good friend Vonn.
I think I was more nervous during her run then during my own, Riesch said.
Riesch thought Vonn would bump her from a medal, but the American wasnt close.
Now, some of the pressure is off since I already got a medal in my first race. Its a big relief, Riesch said. This is a great start, and thanks to the fans. There was a lot of pressure before the event. The course is really hard to race. I am so happy that I managed such a great run.