VAL D'ISERE, France -- A little more than a year ago, Picabo Street, America's top skier, tore ligaments in a crash in Vail, Colo., and missed the entire season.
Two months ago, Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden, last year's overall World Cup winner, injured her knee in Solden, Austria and passed on the first nine races.
Both are making their season debut in Thursday's World Cup super-G.
Street, the 1996 world champion and two-time World Cup downhill champion, tore ligaments in her left knee during training last Dec. 4. She suffered a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, partial tears of several other ligaments and mild cartilage damage.
After 12 months of rehabilitation and training, Street gets her chance to see where she is.
For Street it is a second comeback. She was trying to race in the Mammoth Mountain, Calif., races, two weeks ago. However, American coach Herwig Demscher felt she needed more days of training. So he advised Street to take another two weeks of training before racing. Both agree that the Olympics in Nagano, Japan Feb. 7-22 are the real goal.
If Street gets through the Val d'Isere race without a problem, she would make her downhill debut the following week at Veysonnaz, Switzerland.
"I can't thank the race crews at Copper Mountain and Vail enough for providing me with an opportunity for private training the past few weeks," Street said in a statement isued by the U.S. Ski Team. 11It was tough to see my teammates head out for the World Cup last month without me but I needed some more time.
"My goal is still to be ready for Nagano in February and I feel I made some good progress the last two weeks," Street said. "My knee is feeling stronger but what I've needed is just more on-snow time. And I got a lot the past two weeks."
Demscher said he was "happy with Picabo's progress. This was a great program to allow her time by herself to train and pick up on-snow time.
"This program was a big demand on these ski resorts, but they worked very hard to give Picabo the very best training opportunity."
Wiberg had a less serious knee injury. One, in fact, to each knee.
"It was a tough autumn," Wiberg said. "In August, I injured the miniscus in my left knee and then in October I injured the ligaments in my right knee.'`
"I had an operation only on my left knee. They took away a small piece of the miniscus. The right knee is healing by itself."
She said she started free skiing Nov. 17 and only began with gates less than 10 days ago.
She knows she is behind in preparation.
"It's hard to say where I am. I am going to race tomorrow and see where I stand and build up to the Olympics."
She knows injuries are part of the sport.
"I ski all four disciplines and I try to be on a really high level. And then you are always on the limit on what your body can stand."
She says that, ironically, her latest injury didn't come in training for a speed race, but during a slalom.
"I straddled a gate with my left ski and I went into a snow pile with my right knee and I turned it and the ski didn't go off," she said.
In Thursday's race, she promises she will not hold back.
"I think it's dangerous to say to yourself you will be cautious," she said. "I will try to ski my best and see how it goes. My goal is to be on the podium in every race."
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