Breezy Johnson leads Americans in downhill at world championships as Corinne Suter wins
Shiffrin expected back in action Monday
American Breezy Johnson finished ninth as Corinne Suter ended Switzerland’s 32-year wait for a women’s downhill world title on Saturday, winning her fourth straight medal at a major championship but the first gold.
Racing in sunshine under crisp blue skies, Suter mastered the Olympia delle Tofane and decided the race by using excellent gliding skills on the flat bottom section of the iconic course.
“It’s for sure a huge step,” Suter said about her first gold. “I am so, so happy because all the hard work in the last years paid off today.”
Suter’s teammate Lara Gut-Behrami led for most of her run, but two costly mistakes saw her drop to third, earning bronze after she had beaten Suter to gold in Thursday’s super-G.
Kira Weidle finished a career-best second for silver, winning the second medal for Germany this week.
Olympic super-G champion Ester Ledecka missed the podium by seven-hundredths in fourth.
Johnson, who had four World Cup podiums this season, was among the fastest racers but the American failed to make up enough time after nearly skiing out early in her run and finished ninth.
The top favorite for gold, Sofia Goggia, missed the race after the Italian suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago.
Goggia had won the last four downhills on the World Cup circuit, after Suter had triumphed in the first race of the downhill season in France in December.
Suter believed her second place in the worlds opener helped her believe she could win gold in downhill two days later.
“I started with a silver medal in super-G. That was already amazing for me. I always knew in downhill there are more chances,” said Suter, who is a passionate horse rider when away from the slopes.
Suter, who won the season titles in both speed disciplines in the last World Cup season, became the first women’s downhill world champion from Switzerland since Maria Walliser won in 1989.
She said she didn’t speak to Gut-Behrami before the start as the two Swiss skiers both went for gold.
“I raced for me. I usually don’t look too much at the others,” Suter said. “Also today, I was at the start and didn’t want to race against someone. I just wanted to prove what I can do.”
Suter has medaled in the last four speed events at worlds, after taking silver and bronze in downhill and super-G two years ago.
She also won gold in both speed events at the junior worlds seven years ago.
“I just try to have fun on the fill. The adrenaline helps me also to go to my limits,” Suter said about her consistency in the big events.
Gut-Behrami seemed on course for her second gold medal in two days when she led Suter by more than three-tenths for most of her run.
However, she came off the race line too much on two occasions and failed to carry enough speed into the final section.
Still, the 2016 overall World Cup champion called it an “amazing day.”
“The win for Corinne is well deserved. She had an amazing run and she is one of the best skiers in downhill,” Gut-Behrami said.
Starting fifth, Johnson looked out of contention when she lost balance on her outside ski after 15 seconds into her run and just avoided crashing out.
The mishap cost her about eight-tenths of a second, but the American went all-in and made up time at each split to take an intermediate lead.
Johnson said she got distracted after her goggles fogged at the start.
“I lost sight of what I needed to do there,” she said. “I hit the bump and went on my head and lost a bit of time. I thought I was going to go out but managed to hold it together.”
She waved with her right hand and held one finger up after finishing, but her lead didn’t hold up for long as Suter was the next but one starter.
“I am happy with my skiing, I skied my best, and that’s what matters,” Johnson said.
Only 31 racers took part as some big names were sitting out the event.
Apart from Goggia, Italians Federice Brignone and Marta Bassino also didn’t race, while Mikaela Shiffrin and Petra Vlhova opted to train for upcoming events.
Shiffrin was expected back in action for the combined event Monday.
The men’s downhill is scheduled for Sunday.