ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — When downhill training runs were canceled on Monday due to heavy snowfall, it looked as if it was going to be a tough and snowy World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland. However, the weather gods were singing a different tune on Tuesday, making way for partly cloudy skies on the Engiadina track.
Austrian Nicole Schmidhofer stole the Super-G World Champion title from teammate Anna Veith with a time of 1:21.24. Running bib 8, she swooped in to beat Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather by 0.33 seconds and Switzerland’s Lara Gut by 0.38 seconds, who ended up in second and third place, respectively.
Schmidhofer underwent surgery for an ACL and meniscus tear just over a year ago, and has only two World Cup podium finishes to her name. It was quite a comeback for the Austrian, who was clearly overcome with emotion, breaking into tears during the podium ceremony.
“It’s really amazing; it’s unbelievable,” she exclaimed. “I saw the course and thought, ‘Yeah, this could be good for me,’ and I knew that Lara went before me, so I thought that if I go for the finish, it will be for second place, maybe a medal. When I crossed the finish and it was green, I thought, ‘Yeah! That will be a medal!’ It was not important to me which one, and now it’s a gold medal, and that’s unbelievable.”
Schmidhofer missed out on the 2015 World Championship super-G race when she was beat out by teammates for the four available spots.
For Weirather, the result was a career milestone–her best World Championship result ever. Up until Tuesday, her best result was a fourth place in the 2015 World Championship giant slalom.
“I am very happy. It took me quite a while to accomplish this,” she said. “I’ve never had good luck in events like that. I was injured before Vancouver and Sochi and missed a medal by six hundredths in Beaver Creek, and so every time I went to a World Championships, something crazy happened. So, obviously, the pressure got more and more with every time I went to a World Championships, and today, the pressure was enormous, but I was still able to do a great race and it, of course, makes me really proud.”
Weirather was happy to share the podium with Schmidhofer–a reunion from 10 years ago when they shared the podium at World Junior Championships. Weirather has also had a long relationship with the third-place finisher.
In third was Gut, adding to her collection of top three results. The Swiss athlete now has five World Championship podium finishes to her name, but has never won a World Championship event. While a win would have been the best case scenario, a podium in front of a home crowd feels pretty good.
“In the end, I go on the slope and try to do my best, and I can’t do anything more than that,” Gut said. “It was a little bit weird today; I couldn’t really ski the way I wanted. The snow was different than I expected. I had a little bit of a fight on the slope, so in the end it’s really great to have a medal. I think it was really important everyone, for the home fans and the team, to have something. I can build on that, and I’ll try to ski faster for the next one.”
Noticeably absent from the top of the results sheet was American Lindsey Vonn, who struggled to hold onto her right pole with the same arm she injured earlier this year. After getting her grip back on the pole, she started to charge even harder, but made some tactical choices that ended in a DNF.
“…Having lost it for so many gates today and having it be that big of a distraction is definitely changing my mind,” she shared. “I’m definitely going to have to duct tape my hand to my pole now. It’s just too big of a risk. I feel like it’s strong enough but then, you know, I’m in the course and I don’t know where my pole is. It’s disappointing that that happened today, but I still have more chances. I’m trying my best always, and that’s all I can do.”
The top U.S. Ski Team athlete was Laurenne Ross in 14th place, she was happy with the conditions after the significant snowfall on Monday, even if she wasn’t thrilled with her result.
“I’m blown away by what they did with the snow,” she said. “Yesterday, the conditions were pretty much impossible, and I really didn’t foresee this good of snow coming out of their preparations, so I’m really impressed. And it’s going to get firm and a little faster for the downhill, so I’m excited for that.”
Teammate Breezy Johnson also made her World Championships debut, ending the day in 28th, three seconds off the pace. American Jacqueline Wiles did not finish.
One of the special parts of World Championships are the various athletes from non-traditional countries that make appearances. Among them are Sarah Schleper, the former U.S. Ski Team athlete, who now competes for Mexico. This is her seventh World Championships and first World Championship super-G race. Sabrina Simader of the Kenya Ski Team also raced. She has only had one World Cup start. She raced in Maribor earlier this year.
“It’s amazing,” Simader said. “It’s my first World Championship, and my fan club is also here and it’s really emotional and I enjoy this. The weather is nice. The slope was cool, and I hope I will be fast next time.”
World Championship action continues on Feb. 8 with the men’s super-G race and a women’s downhill training run.
View photos from the race here.
1. Nicole Schmidhofer (AUT) – Fischer / Fischer / Fischer
2. Tina Weirather (LIE) – Atomic / Atomic / Atomic
3. Lara Gut (SUI) – Head / Head / Head
4. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) – Stoeckli / Lange / Marker
5. Elena Curtoni (ITA) – Head / Head / Head
6. Raghnild Mowinckel (NOR) – Head / Head / Head
7. Stephanie Venier (AUT) – Atomic / Atomic / Atomic
8. Federica Brignone (ITA) – Rossignol / Rossignol / Rossignol
8. Tessa Worley (FRA) – Rossignol / Rossignol / Rossignol
10. Sofia Goggia (ITA) – Atomic / Atomic / Atomic
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WSC Points|
|25||25||426043||TVIBERG Maria Therese||1994||NOR||1:24.06||+2.72||36.12|
|35||45||35089||SIMARI BIRKNER Macarena||1984||ARG||1:26.51||+5.17||68.65|
|Did not finish 1st run|