ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — The last time two different skiers from the same country won consecutive downhill World Championship titles Destiny’s Child was still together and the first Harry Potter film was released. That was 2001. Sixteen years later, Slovenian Ilka Stuhec took the World Championship downhill victory–just two years after living legend Tina Maze won in the same discipline in 2015.
Stuhec won with a final time of 1:32.85, 0.40 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Stephanie Venier of Austria and 0.45 seconds ahead of third-place finisher Lindsey Vonn of the United States.
During the flower ceremony, an emotional Stuhec kneeled before the podium as if trying to fully comprehend the importance of what she’d just accomplished and show respect for the World Champion title.
“I tried to hold back my emotions, but now they are just coming out, so I guess I will be crying for the rest of the day,” she said.
The Slovenian is relatively new to the podium at this level of ski racing. She won her first World Cup this season in Lake Louise, Canada.
A World Championships rookie, Venier landed her first World Championships medal with a smoking fast run. This marks the 40th World Championships downhill podium for the Austrians.
“I think it was a good run, and I was faster than in the trainings, and the jumps were very big, and I knew that I was fast and now I’m very happy,” Venier said.
Vonn, who was no doubt hoping to win, rounded out the podium. This is Vonn’s seventh World Championships and seventh World Championship medal. She has podiumed in each World Championships since 2007 aside from 2013 when she suffered a knee injury in the Schladming World Championships super-G.
“It’s amazing,” Vonn said excitedly. “I’m so happy. This is the happiest I’ve ever been to be third place in my life. Today, I just did my best. You know, I fought really hard from top to bottom. I know I can ski better, but I think considering my preparation and my hand, my arm, I think today feels like a gold medal. I’m the oldest female medalist ever, and I think that’s the best news I’ve heard all day.”
The next best American was Laurenne Ross, who finished the day in fifth place–her best World Championships performance and her best result of the season.
“I feel good; It’s been a bit of a struggle this year, so it’s nice to take a step in the right direction, and I’m happy to be in fifth,” she said. “It’s nice to be back in the top 10 again, and hopefully I can take this momentum through the rest of the season.”
Both women said they were going to celebrate the day with champagne and hanging out with their team. Between Vonn and Ross was Sofia Goggia, who was a favorite to be on the podium in the downhill after winning the downhill portion of Friday’s alpine combined. The Italian was ahead at every split until the end of the course when her tips momentarily crossed, slowing her down enough to prevent the Italian from getting a podium spot.
“Being fourth at World Champs is nothing,” Goggia said. “I’m seven hundredths from the bronze, and it’s hard to accept with the mistake I made because I was pretty fast before. It hurts bad, but I gave everything I had and sometimes this can happen.”
The other two Americans competing, Jacqueline Wiles and Breezy Johnson, finished in 12th and 15th, respectively. With four athletes in the top 15, the U.S. Ski Team has a lot to celebrate, and Vonn, as the oldest member of the team, says that the women have a strong bond that makes the success more wonderful.
“I try to lead the girls, and I definitely feel like we have a great team camaraderie where we all support each other,” Vonn said. “Laurenne gave me my course report today, and we’ve been doing that for a few years now. Jacki’s coming up. She’s a Lindsey Vonn Foundation ambassador. She was on the podium this year, so I feel like we all support each other, and we’re all really happy for each other when we do well.”
Women’s racing action continues with the Team Event on Feb. 14.
View photo gallery from today’s race here.
- Ilka Stuhec (SLO) – Stoeckli / Lange /Atomic
- Stephanie Venier (AUT) – Atomic / Atomic / Atomic
- Lindsey Vonn (USA) – Head / Head / Head
- Sofia Goggia (ITA) – Atomic / Atomic / Atomic
- Laurenne Ross (USA) – Voelkl / Marker / Dalbello
- Christine Scheyer (AUT) – Head / Head / Head
- Corinne Suter (SUI) – Head / Head / Head
- Michelle Gisin (SUI) – Rossignol / Rossignol / Rossignol
- Ramona Siebenhofer (AUT) – Head / Head / Head
- Tina Weirather (LIE) – Atomic / Atomic / Atomic
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|25||21||426043||TVIBERG Maria Therese||1994||NOR||1:35.39||+2.54||34.19|
|37||38||35089||SIMARI BIRKNER Macarena||1984||ARG||1:39.08||+6.23||83.87|