ALPINE SKIING: Comebacks complete: Stuhec wins and Vonn third in women’s Downhill

The women's Downhill medalists: Suter, Stuhec and Vonn (Photo: FIS)

While the American media has been consumed with Lindsey Vonn’s final race in Sunday’s women’s Downhill at the FIS World Championships in Are (SWE), there was another comeback story going on at the same time.

Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec – like Vonn a World Champion in her own right and the defending champion in the Downhill – was trying to come all the way back from a devastating injury that kept her out of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. She missed all of the 2017-18 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during a crash.

So on Sunday, it was a return to glory for both as Stuhec won her second consecutive world title in the women’s Downhill and Vonn took the bronze medal, her eighth in World Championships competition.

Vonn posted an emotional tweet hours before starting:

One last time I will stand in the starting gate.
One last time I will feel the adrenaline running through my veins.
One last time I will risk it all.
One last time… I will remember it forever.
Let’s do this!

Vonn rushed down the mountain in the no. 3 position and posted a swift time of 1:02.23, but then began the long process of waiting to see what came after. Olympic Downhill champ Sofia Goggia (ITA) came two skiers later, but was slower at 1:02.76. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel skied sixth, but her 1:02.33 was slower than Vonn. Austria’s Stephanie Venier was next and was also slower, at 1:02.27.

Stuhec was ninth in the order and skied aggressively and took the lead at 1:01.74, a time that looked hard to beat, and no one did.

Vonn looked good for silver for a long time, but Swiss Corinne Suter, the bronze medalist in the Super-G, came on from the 19th position to scare Stuhec’s time and finished n 1:01.97 for the silver medal.

Stuhec was overjoyed. “I still have to gather all my feelings because I’m quite emotional so it might take a while. None of what happened before actually matters because it’s a new day and a new chance. We all start from zero and it’s the same for everyone. I just do my best and apparently it was good enough.”

Vonn was satisfied. “I think everyone knows my mentality by now, I always risk everything all the time, which is the reason I’ve been able to win so much and it’s also the reason why I crash so much and have had so many injuries. I risked it all today. I was so nervous all day and had serious anxiety. I wanted more than anything to finish strong. I didn’t want to end up like I did on Tuesday, in the fence.”

Vonn won a medal in her sixth World Championships and is reportedly the oldest women’s medal winner in Worlds history at 34. Stuhec, at 28, and Suter, at 24, will be stars for years to come, but they shared the podium with a skiing legend.

There was bad news in the American camp, as Laurenne Ross’s crash last Thursday will end her season. She posted on Instagram, “On Thursday morning, while warming up for the training run, I crashed and sustained a concussion and left-knee injury. My knee doesn’t seem to need surgery, but it is time for some rest for both my body and head. Unfortunately this means I won’t be able to race in the World Champs DH tomorrow, and will likely be out for the remainder of the season.”

The Worlds continue with the Men’s Alpine Combined on Monday. Look for results here. Summaries:

FIS Alpine World Championships
Are (SWE) ~ 5-17 February 2019
(Full results here)

Men’s Downhill: 1. Kjetil Jansrud (NOR), 1:19.98; 2. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR), 1:20.00; 3. Vincent Kriechmayr (AUT), 1:20.31; 4. Beat Feuz (SUI), 1:20.42; 5. Matthias Mayer (AUT), 1:20.63; 6. Dominik Paris (ITA), 1:20.72; 7. Benjamin Thomsen (CAN), 1:20.73; 8. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR), 1:20.80. Also: 9 (tie). Bryce Bennett (USA), 1:20.81; … 12. Ryan Cochran-Siegle (USA), 1:21.00; … 23. Steven Nyman (USA), 1:21.55; … 26. Travis Ganong (USA), 1:21.63.

Men’s Super-G: 1. Paris (ITA), 1:24.20; 2. tie, Johan Clarey (FRA) and Kriechmayr (AUT), 1:24.29; 4. Christof Innerhofer (ITA), 1:24.55; 5. Adrien Theaux (FRA), 1:24.57; 6. Josef Ferstl (GER), 1:24.59; 7. Brice Roger (FRA), 1:24.61; 8. tie, Mattia Casse (ITA), Nyman (USA) and Adrian Sejersted (NOR), 1:24.70. Also in the top 25: 11. Cochran-Siegle (USA), 1:24.73; … 23. Bennett (USA), 1:25.82.

Women’s Downhill: 1. Ilka Stuhec (SLO), 1:01.74; 2. Corinne Suter (SUI), 1:01.97; 3. Lindsey Vonn (USA), 1:02.23; 4. Stephanie Venier (AUT), 1:02.27; 5. Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR), 1:02.33; 6. Nicol Delago (ITA), 1:02.36; 7. Ramona Siebenhofer (AUT), 1:02.38; 8. Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI), 1:02.52. Also: 22. Alice Merryweather (USA), 1:03.26.

Women’s Super-G: 1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA), 1:04.89; 2. Sofia Goggia (ITA), 1:04.91; 3. Suter (SUI), 1:04.94; 4. Viktor Rebensburg (GER), 1:04.96; 5. Nadia Fanchini (ITA), 1:05.03; 6. Mowinckel (NOR), 1:05.05; 7. Francesca Marsaglia (ITA), 1:05.13; 8. Stuhec (SLO), 1:05.15; 9. Gut-Behrami (SUI), 1:05.37; 10. Federica Brignone (ITA), 1:05.43. Also in the top 25: 22. Merryweather (USA), 1:07.22.

Women’s Combined: 1. Wendy Holdener (SUI), 2:02:13 (5th in Downhill + 3rd in Slalom); 2. Petra Vlhova (SVK), 2:02.16 (8+2); 3. Mowinckel (NOR), 2:02.58 (3+6); 4. Siebenhofer (AUT), 2:02.62 (1+8); 5. Roni Remme (CAN), 2:02.26 (28+1); 6. Brignone (ITA), 2:03.52 (6+10); 7. Kasja Vickhoff Lie (NOR), 2:03.64 (15+5); 8. Franziska Gritsch (AUT), 2:03.82 (29+4). Also: 18. Merryweather (USA), 2:06.63 (10+21).