VIENNA (AP) Two-time overall champion Anna Fenninger is expecting to return to World Cup skiing for the first race of the 2016-17 season after a year-long injury layoff.
The Austrian skier was ruled out for up to 12 months after damaging her right knee in a training crash on Oct. 21, three days before the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden.
''My recovery goes according to plan,'' Fenninger said on Wednesday, adding she had been walking without crutches for one week. ''Today was the first time I woke up and forgot that I am injured. The next couple of months will be very tough but I will keep on fighting. Soelden 2016 is my goal.''
The Olympic super-G champion had surgery on the medial collateral and the cruciate ligament as well as the patellar tendon. Austrian team doctor Christian Hoser said after the operation seven weeks ago that Fenninger would need nine to 12 months of recovery before getting back on skis.
Initially ''in shock'' when doctors informed her on the extent of her injury, Fenninger said she tried to look forward as soon as possible.
''Every day is like strength training. I've lost a lot of muscle mass and need to build it up again,'' she said at a sponsor event. ''To be able to walk without crutches has been the biggest moment during my recovery so far.''
The 26-year-old Fenninger won the overall title the past two seasons, and earned gold in super-G and giant slalom at the world championships in Beaver Creek this year. She has won eight medals in total at Olympics and world championships, and has won 14 World Cup races.
Apart from Fenninger, the Austrian women's team has also been without Nicole Hosp, Andrea Fischbacher and Kathin Zettel, who all retired in the offseason. Still, the team earned five podium finishes in three speed races in Lake Louise last weekend, which were all won by American standout Lindsey Vonn.
''Sometimes it's hard sitting in front of the TV but I have to watch the races as skiing is my passion,'' Fenninger said. ''It was great to see the strong performances by my teammates. That's really cool.''