CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy — You couldn’t have asked for more perfect conditions for the women’s downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Saturday as picture-perfect skies and even better snow were the name of the game. Switzerland’s Lara Gut claimed her first downhill win of the season with a total time of 1:37.08 seconds, barely edging out Italy’s own Sofia Goggia in second by 0.05 seconds. Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec rounded out the podium in third, 0.47 seconds off the pace.
With many of the top racers choosing to start in the middle of the top-30 starters, Stuhec set the early pace with bib nine, only to have it taken away two racers later by a surging Goggia to the cheers of the Italian fans. Running a few racers later with bib 15, Gut struggled to find her form on the upper section of the course, but was able to refocus and whittle away at her deficit before a strong final interval gave her the speed to cross the line just in front of Goggia.
Gut’s victory now closes the gap between her and American Mikaela Shiffrin in the overall standings to only 30 points heading into tomorrow’s super-G, a race where both rivals are set to start. If both athletes keep skiing the way they have been this season, it’s going to come down to the wire to decide this season’s overall winner.
“The top wasn’t really clean, and I didn’t trust myself to push one-hundred percent on the skis, so after the second split, I really had the feeling that I had to change something,” Gut explained in the finish. “I tried to ski a little bit smoother, and it worked out. I’m happy. I knew that if I did what I can, I could be really fast.”
Although Goggia would have loved to take the victory in front of a home crowd, she was satisfied with her performance and will continue to bring her now signature attacking style to the remainder of the season.
“I think I made a great performance today in the downhill,” she said. “I’m pretty happy with my skiing, but still a little bittersweetness for the last interval but still, it’s really ok. I’m trying to push every race close to my limits. It’s ok when you try and fail, the important thing is not to lose the confidence you have earned during the season, I don’t.”
Saturday’s result was Stuhec’s first World Cup podium that wasn’t a victory after the Slovene took the first three downhills of the season. Despite the strong performance, she is hungry for more as she looks to hold on to the red leader’s bib for the remainder of the season.
“My run felt ok, not perfect, because I know that I made some mistakes and lost some time; that’s why I’m not winning, I guess,” Stuhec said. “But for sure, it’s a beautiful day to ski and here is always very, very nice because we’ve done two trainings and a race and there is no track in the snow, no nothing, so it is perfect and I love it.”
For the Americans, Breezy Johnson led the way with a 10th-place finish — her first World Cup top 10 — and has shown very encouraging results all season, scoring at multiple venues as a relative newcomer to the circuit.
“I’m really excited,” she said after the race. “I just try and execute my plan every day, so I’m happy with my skiing. There were definitely spots that weren’t perfect, but I just tried to keep it going and keep carrying the speed, and I think the bottom was really good, so I’m happy with that. I just hope I can carry that and maybe go to St. Moritz.”
Following Johnson was Stacey Cook in 11th, and Jacqueline Wiles and Alice McKennis finished 17th and 18th, respectively. Laurenne Ross finished the day in 22nd after a costly mistake, and Leanne Smith continued her return from injury just outside of the points in 32nd.
American star Lindsey Vonn failed to finish after falling victim to the same turn that took her out in Friday’s training run and finding herself in the net. Vonn walked away unharmed, however, and is looking forward to another chance in Sunday’s super-G.
“I felt like I was going pretty fast into (the turn), so I slowed myself down,” she explained. “When I landed, there as a little bit of a bump and my outside ski caught, and I did the splits and just went straight in the fence. I’m happy with my effort, and I’m just going to look forward to tomorrow.”
The women now race super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo on Sunday.
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- Lara Gut (SUI) – Head/Head/Head
- Sofia Goggia (ITA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Ilka Stuhec (SLO) – Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) – Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Nicole Schmidhofer (AUT) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Verena Stuffer (ITA) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Johanna Schnarf (ITA) – Fisher/Fischer/Fischer
- Kajsa Kling (SWE) – Head/Head/Head
- Tamara Tippler (AUT) – Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
- Breezy Johnson (USA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|26||39||426043||TVIBERG Maria Therese||1994||NOR||1:38.99||+1.91||24.59||5.00|
|46||50||35089||SIMARI BIRKNER Macarena||1984||ARG||1:43.31||+6.23||80.22|
|Did not finish 1st run|