Cornelia Huetter’s injury came at a most inopportune time, as injuries often do. It was January 4th, 2017 when the rising Austrian speed star tore her right ACL during a super-G training session in Saalbach, Austria. The 25-year-old’s injury was compounded by damage to both the medial and lateral meniscus in her right knee, and all of the momentum created by a standout 2015-16 campaign, in which she finished fifth in the overall World Cup downhill standings, was halted.
This season, impressively, she has returned to the World Cup circuit with a vengeance. Huetter took a victory in her first race back, winning the downhill in Lake Louise, Canada, in December. Proving the win was no fluke, she finished fourth the next day to tell the World Cup that she was back in a big way.
Though she kicked the season off with a bang, Huetter’s results have been up and down since her early success in Lake Louise. Besides her strong start and a podium in super-G last month in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria, she has only landed in the top 10 one other time finishing 10th in Cortina, Italy. Still, she sits a comfortable fourth in the downhill standings heading into the Olympics.
After this weekend’s speed races in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Huetter will travel to PyeongChang, South Korea, to compete in her second Olympic games. She competed on the Austrian women’s downhill team as the youngster in Sochi alongside the likes of Nicole Hosp, Elisabeth Goergl, and Anna Fenninger (now Veith). Huetter and Veith — who is also returning from injury — are the only remaining racers from the last Austrian Olympic downhill team.
“If you start at the Olympics, you have a chance,” she said, full of motivation. “Of course, you’d like to achieve what everyone is talking about.”
Looking back over the last year, Huetter said the road returning from injury in time to make her second Olympic team wasn’t easy, but she learned many invaluable lessons.
“On your path back from injury there will be times during which you become desperate,” Huetter says. “Things don’t go the way you want them to.”
Thankfully, during those times Huetter has had the best support one can think of. Her boyfriend, Christian Waldner, also a young Austrian speed skier, who tore his ACL just weeks after Huetter, was a centerpiece in her recovery. While working on their comebacks they helped and motivated each other, while sticking to their individualized plans to return to snow.
Even before their injuries they would help one another, exchanging videos of their training and races, and trading ideas to help each other improve and find speed.
“We both learn from each other,” she explains. “I think this is common in relationships. We talk every day and it is important to me. Christian spots a lot in my videos and he is able to give me helpful advice,” Huetter said.
After her injury, Huetter also switched equipment without testing and joined forces with Head. Switching equipment manufacturers so abruptly and without any on-snow testing is a big gamble for any athlete to make, especially in an Olympic year, but the risk of switching paid off in her mind.
“Sometimes there needs to be change, that’s how life is,” she says. “I’m very thankful for the time with Volkl and for the success we had, it was a good time,” she said.
If being a speed skier and making instinctive decisions to flip the switch with equipment blindly isn’t proof enough that Huetter is a risk taker, add rally car racing to the mix. When she cannot race down mountains with her speed skis during the summer, she follows her passion for speed by racing rally cars. In the summer of 2011, Huetter participated in mountain rally races and planned on taking part in as many races as possible of the International Automobile Federation’s Central European Zone Rally Championship.
Currently, Huetter is focused solely on her ski career and has put the rally sports aside but, if an opportunity presents itself in the car racing world, she said she would take it without hesitation.
For now though, Huetter’s eyes are focused on the Games. Days from now, Huetter will kick out of the start gate in Pyeongchang fueled by an innate need for speed.