It was a victory for Breezy Johnson as she returned to non-World Cup FIS racing to capture the US national downhill title at Copper Mountain Thursday. Johnson, who last won a combined U.S. national and NorAm downhill title in 2016 at Aspen, has not raced anything other than a World Cup since her knee injury in 2016.
Johnson’s teammates AJ Hurt and Alice Mckennis Duran rounded out the podium in second and third, respectively.
Johnson says training is more of a bonus rather than a critical component to her ski racing success. She spent the last three weeks at Copper focused on testing her skis and creating a mental intensity for race Thursday.
“Today was good,” said Johnson. “It was nice to have sort of a pre-race, race. Jackie has been skiing really fast in training. I was happy to have it on race day because a lot of times that is more my space, but then again, I am not trying to look too much into it.”
Today’s conditions required aerodynamics and clean skiing. A hard snow pack and a groove in the track resembled World Cup conditions, but it was easier to get away with small mistakes. Johnson isn’t getting ahead of herself on Colorado snow, knowing the response she has in her ski now will not always be the case in Europe.
“I am sort of doing this thing where I am so focused on speed now that I don’t think of future problems,” said Johnson. “I was running really late into this gate and knew I was coming in way too direct, and I should have gotten out of my tuck and found shape going into the turn, but I was just looking for speed and hoped it would work out.”
Johnson’s teammate, Isabella Wright, also laid down fast skiing. In a second FIS race, following the U.S. nationals race, Wright came in third by 0.87 behind veteran downhill skiers Jackie Wiles and Johnson.
“Speeds were definitely higher than yesterday, especially in the middle of the course and it caught me a little by surprise,” said Wright. “I think my skiing has improved so much, especially last summer and fall with teammates around me to push me, the coaching staff, as well as my physical therapist and physical trainer. I think that I have all the elements I have been missing and it’s really pushed me to improve immensely.”
The women’s speed team will compete in super G Friday.
US Alpine National Championships – Women’s Downhill – Nov. 19, 2020