The overnight precipitation that forced the lowering of the start for Friday’s women’s downhill in Cortina, Italy, was nowhere to be found on Saturday morning as the fastest women on two skis took on the Olympia delle Tofane track for the second day in a row. The full-length track challenged racers in a different way as the upper turns require a soft, precise touch in order to carry speed onto the lower sections of the course.
The Italian fans came out in force on Saturday to the newly designed finish area in Cortina, constructed for the upcoming 2021 World Championships. A massive undertaking of earthwork over the summer months, the finish in Cortina is now able to accommodate more fans and is easier for athletes, media, and support staff to navigate than the previous finish that was somewhat awkward due to the uneven ground in the area where the race finishes.
Austria’s Ramona Siebenhofer once again proved to be the woman to beat in Cortina as the 27-year-old captured her second victory in a row after also emerging victorious in Friday’s downhill. Strong and composed throughout her run, the Austrian once again crushed the field in the final turns before the finish en route to her second World Cup win with a time of 1:36.22 seconds. Siebenhofer’s teammate, Nicole Schmidhofer, looked to be on her way to taking the top spot before losing time on the approach to the finish, a section Siebenhofer had dialed in two days in a row. Ultimately, Schmidhofer slid into second place, just 0.04 seconds behind her teammate.
“I don’t know what the key is,” Siebenhofer said of her recent success. “I just had to be patient and think that any day it will work. I just had to tell myself at the start to just show my skiing and attack. I don’t know, it’s special.”
The Ausrtrian women’s speed team has been dominant at the top of the standings this season with at least one Austrian woman standing on the podium in every World Cup downhill contested this season, not to mention winning four out of five of them. Siebenhofer’s two wins combined with Schmidhofer’s two in Lake Louise to kick off the year make for a formidable squad as the team looks ahead to the World Championships in Are, Sweden, next month.
“We have two new coaches with us this year, Florian Scheiber, he’s an ex-athlete and it’s very, very special to work with him and also Walther Kramer; he has lots of experience,” Siebenhofer explains. “It’s a good spirit, it started good with the victories of Nici in Lake Louise and everybody has just pushed in training and it’s awesome to share all these emotions with all the other girls.”
Schmidhofer, despite her diminutive size, has proved to be a force in downhill this season as she currently leads the standings, although only eight points ahead of Siebenhofer after Saturday’s race.
“I’m really happy with my performance today,” she explained. “I had a small mistake in the middle part so I didn’t get the speed at the end. The slope was much better than yesterday, yesterday wasn’t very good, and hopefully I bring it again on the slope tomorrow. It’s great to share the podium with Ramona. It was really close for my second place but I’m happy for her because she had a lot of work in the last years and now she’s got what she’s focused on the last years.”
Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec finished on the podium for the second day in a row in third, 0.51 seconds back, and now sits in third in the downhill standings. just behind the Austrians. Still coming back from a knee injury suffered in October of 2017, Stuhec is finally feeling the same confidence that brought her a downhill crystal globe and World Championship title in 2017.
“It’s always great to be on the podium so I feel good,” she said after the race. “I am quite satisfied with my run, it was a bit harder today starting from the top but it was a real perfect Cortina day, nice weather, perfect slope so I’m really happy. My comeback has not been bad, I have to say. I’m really satisfied. The start of the season was not so easy for me because I imagined that I would be on the podium right away which was not really realistic because of all of the other girls were skiing and training more than me but it feels great to be here again and trust myself to ski the way I can.”
The United States’ Lindsey Vonn continued her comeback to the World Cup on Saturday with a solid ninth-place finish. Still pushing through knee pain from her training crash last November, the winningest women’s ski racer of all time is looking to trust her abilities more than she has in the last two days in order to improve in the coming races.
“I didn’t make a huge mistake and I’m only two-tenths off of fourth place, so I think it was an improvement but still not what I’m looking for,” Vonn explained in the finish. “I think it’s hard sometimes when it’s bumpy to trust my right leg and I still have a lot of pain so I’m fighting through it the best I can but I just have to find a faster way through it. My knee felt about the same as the first training run, I just really felt it when I landed and also in the middle section where it’s really wavy it’s just hard for me to really trust myself and trust my skiing. It definitely hurts every time I push on my leg.”
Vonn has said that this will be her farewell season on the World Cup and said goodbye to the Cortina downhill for the last time on Saturday. In total, Vonn has won the downhill in Cortina six times in her career.
“It’s tough,” she admitted. “I was hoping to come back and get a win here in my final season but I still have a chance tomorrow. Not everything happens the way you hope it does but everything still happens for a reason so I have to just stay positive and keep fighting. I’m still enjoying it; I love being in the starting gate and I love feeling the adrenaline and going fast, it’s just not as fast as I had hoped.”
Laurenne Ross was the next American finisher in 20th place, 1.80 seconds back. Alice Merryweather finished in 30th as all three Americans scored points for the second straight day.
The women now race super-G in Cortina on Sunday, January 20.
1. Ramona Siebenhofer (AUT)- Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
2. Nicole Schmidhofer (AUT)- Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
3. Ilka Stuhec (SLO)- Stoeckli/Lange
4. Kira Weidle (GER)- Rossignol/Lange/Look
5. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER)- Stoeckli/Lange
6. Cornelia Huetter (AUT)- Head/Head/Head
7. Michelle Gisin (SUI)- Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
8. Ester Ledecka (CZE)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
9. Christina Ager (AUT)- Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
9. Lindsey Vonn (USA)- Head/Head/Head
For complete FIS results, please click here.