Italian race fans got what they came for and then some today.
After a long and patient wait, 30-year-old Italian Daniela Merighetti finally claimed her first career World Cup win today (Jan. 14). She couldn’t have picked a better race for her first victory, taking one of the biggest days on the women’s tour in front of a home crown in the downhill at beautiful Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
“The feeling of winning a World Cup here is just unbelievable,” said Merighetti, who last graced the World Cup podium in 2003 with a third-place finish in a giant slalom. “There are no words for it. Just unbelievable.”
Following recent tradition, skies were clear and sunny in the stunning area in the Italian Dolomites, though intermittent wind hampered the efforts of several racers.
Merighetti, starting ahead of the top-ranked women in the No. 13 bib, brilliantly navigated the picturesque Olympia delle Tofane course to finish in one minute, 33.17 seconds and hung on through the top names to claim only her second World Cup podium. Her previous best finish in Cortina was a fourth-place result in the 2007 downhill.
“I had a great start. There was no wind,” said Merighetti, who was racing with a broken thumb suffered last week.“On this slope, you have to be gentle and you have to be aggressive as well. I had a good mix, and a very good feeling with my materials.”
American overall leader Lindsey Vonn, winner of this season’s first two downhills and two-time downhill winner on this hill, was 0.21 seconds behind Merighetti for her sixth podium of the season.
Defending overall champ, German Maria Hoefl-Riesch, returning to racing after taking last weekend’s speed races off with the flu, took her third podium of the season in third, 0.40 seconds off the leading pace.
Vonn, the leader of the first training day this week, got some bad luck with a few gusts of wind at the top of the course but was happy to be back on the podium following an uncharacteristic off weekend (fourth in the downhill, 18th in the super G) last week in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria. Vonn now leads the overall standings with a 244-point lead over Austrian slalom specialist Marlies Schild.
“I’m really happy with today’s race,” said Vonn. “It was tough conditions and really windy. You had to ski well and also have a little bit of luck. It could have been a lot worse so second place is a solid result.”
Slovenian Tina Maze continued a strong recent stretch, just missing the podium in fourth place.
Led by Vonn, five of six American starters finished in the top 30. Stacey Cook tied her third-best career finish in sixth place. Teammate Julia Mancuso took ninth while Laurenne Ross, Leanne Smith finished 18th and 30th, respectively. Still working her way back from a broken leg last season, Alice McKennis finished 42nd.
“My coach, the other day, said I was like a fine wine, getting better with age. I turned back to him and said, ‘Yeah, I’ve always kind of been a late bloomer,’” said Cook. “I think a lot of it is credit to the coaches for having confidence in me for so many years when I would have a fast training round and blow it on race day, and they still kept believing in me. All that belief comes through with a little bit of timing, if you start to believe in yourself. They definitely brought me on a big journey.”
World Cup legend, Swede Anja Paerson, who is racing primarily speed events this season after collecting 42 World Cup wins across all the disciplines, grabbed her best finish of the season in tenth today.
Racing in Cortina continues tomorrow with a women’s super G.
Image by Gepa
by Hank McKee
Women’s Downhill, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, Jan. 14, 2012
1 Merighetti, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
2 Vonn, Head/Head/Head
3 Hoefl-Riesch, Head/Lange/Head
4 Maze, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
5 Weirather, Atomic/Tecnica/Atomic
6 Cook, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
7 Suter, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
8 Goergl, Head/Head/Head
9 Mancuso, Voelkl/Lange/Marker
10 Paerson, Head/Head/Head
Women’s Downhill, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, Jan. 14, 2012. … It is the 15th race of the women’s 40 race 2012 World Cup schedule with one cancelation (city event Munich). … It is the fourth of nine scheduled downhills. … The first of two races set at Cortina. … It is the 84th Cup event to be hosted at Cortina. … the 33rd downhill.
It is the first career World Cup win for Daniela Merighetti and her first podium since finishing second in GS at Are in 2003. … Of her 26 Cup top 10 results six have come in DH at Cortina including a fourth in 2007 and a sixth last season.
It is the 86th career World Cup podium result for Lindsey Vonn. … her 41st in DH. … It is her 12th career podium scored at Cortina. … and seventh at Cortina in DH. … It is her sixth podium of the season, the first that is not a victory.
It is the 61st career World Cup podium result for Maria Hoefl-Riesch. … her 17th in DH. … It is her sixth podium scored at Cortina and third at Cortina in DH. … It is her third podium of the season, the other two coming in slalom.
Stacey Cook matches her third best career placing and has placed in the top 10 in three straight downhills. … It is the 99th career World Cup top 10 for Julia Mancuso. … her 16th at Cortina. … It is her seventh top 10 of the season. … It is the fourth best career Cup result for Laurenne Ross and her best DH result. … It is her second best result of the season after a 14th in SG at Bad Kleinkirchheim. … It is the 34th career Cup scoring result for Leanne Smith. … It is the second time this month US women have had five racers score.
Vonn maintains the lead of the World Cup overall standings 784-540 over Marlies Schild (did not race). … Tina Maze (fourth in race) is third at 533. … Mancuso is seventh with 356pts. … Marie-Michele Gagnon (did not race) is top Canadian in 29th with 82pts. … Vonn leads the DH standings 330-203 over Elisabeth Goergl (eighth in race). … Tina Weirather (fifth in race) is third with 180pts. … Mancuso is sixth with 132pts and Cook 10th with 114pts. … Austria leads the women’s Nations Cup 2584-1522 over the US. … Switzerland is third with 1220. … Canada is 11th with 187pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||FIS Points|
|21||37||425880||SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth||1991||NOR||1:34.93||25.12|
|25||2||495318||RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina||1981||SPA||1:35.28||30.12|
|44||50||35089||SIMARI BIRKNER Macarena||1984||ARG||1:39.79||94.50|
|Did not start 1st run|
|43||298084||AGERER Lisa Magdalena||1991||ITA|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|51||35079||SIMARI BIRKNER Maria Belen||1982||ARG|