VAL D’ISERE, France – Corinne Suter won the season-opening women’s World Cup downhill race Friday and Nicole Schmidhofer was injured in a high-speed crash that sent her through the safety fencing.
Descending at more than 100 kph (62 mph) near the end of her run, Schmidhofer lost control after landing a jump and while approaching a right turn. When she veered off the course, the sharp edges of her skis cut through the safety netting.
The Austrian landed out of view of TV cameras. She received medical help on the scene and was transported off the hill on a sled about 15 minutes later.
Schmidhofer, the 2018-19 downhill champion and 2017 super-G world champion, was one of four skiers to get in trouble on the course, where visibility was a problem because of alternating shadow and sunny spots.
The Austrian ski federation said Schmidhofer likely ruptured the ligaments in her left knee and was taken to a clinic in Innsbruck for further examination. Austrian women’s team coach, Christian Mitter, said she also had abrasions on her face.
Defending overall champion Federica Brignone of Italy, Joana Haehlen of Switzerland and Alice McKennis Duran of the United States crashed as well, but all were able to ski down the slope.
Schmidhofer’s accident halted the race for 20 minutes as course workers needed time to repair the fencing.
Having started before the incident happened, Suter edged Sofia Goggia by 0.11 seconds for her second career win.
The Swiss skier acknowledged that flat lights caused problems during her run as well.
“It was a difficult race. Top and middle part were good, on the bottom I had some mistakes. After the finish I thought it wouldn’t be enough for the win,” said Suter, who has earned all of her seven downhill podium results in the past 11 races.
Last season, Suter became the first skier to win both the downhill and super-G titles in the same season since American great Lindsey Vonn achieved the feat in 2015-16.
Breezy Johnson was 0.20 seconds behind in third for her first career top-three finish, improving one spot from her previous best.
The American had already been among the fastest skiers during the two training days, coming runner-up to McKennis Duran on Wednesday and posting the fastest time the following day.
“I don’t think anything has sunk in yet, so I think I’m probably just going to keep it that way and just keep working towards tomorrow,” Johnson said. “The snow in most places was actually a lot better, it was just a little bumpier in some spots, and a lot faster with the race wax and everybody going for it. It was a good race.”
Keely Cashman jumped from bib 46 to land in 17th and grab her first career World Cup points, while Jackie Wiles — who has been skiing consistently fast in training runs — landed in 23rd. Bella Wright also started for the Americans, but finished just outside the top 30, in 35th.
Marie-Michele Gagnon was the top Canadian in 18th.
Overall World Cup leader Petra Vlhova finished 2.35 seconds off the lead and outside the top 20.
Three-time overall champion Mikaela Shiffrin skipped the event. The American has opted to focus on training in her core disciplines, slalom and GS.
Another downhill on the same course is scheduled for Saturday.
World Cup – Women’s Downhill – Val d’Isere – Dec. 18, 2020