Breezy Johnson hopes to make noise in first FIS World Cup Finals
Breezy Johnson wanted to compete in Aspen this week at the World Cup Finals. But, this being her first full season on the main circuit, she didn’t know how likely that was to happen.
However, the 21-year-old from Victor, Idaho, who grew up racing in nearby Jackson, Wyoming, had a surprisingly successful winter and is quickly becoming one of the country’s top downhill skiers.
Johnson’s repeated triumphs have led to her being one of five American women competing in the 21-skier field Wednesday at the Finals. Only a year ago she won the U.S. national downhill title in Aspen on a similar course.
“It’s been really incredible and I’m really grateful to everybody who’s helped me,” Johnson said after Tuesday’s World Cup downhill training in Aspen. “I really didn’t expect to come back here. Obviously I really hoped for it and really worked for it, but it’s really amazing to come back here for World Cup Finals.”
Tuesday was the second and final day of downhill training ahead of Wednesday’s 11 a.m. women’s downhill race. The World Cup women haven’t competed in Aspen since Canada’s Britt Janyk won in 2007.
Johnson took 17th in Tuesday’s training, finishing her run in 1 minute, 40.62 seconds, 2.74 seconds back of Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec, the top finisher. Johnson was 13th in Monday’s training run.
“The jumps are a little bigger. There are some rollers that weren’t there previously, but it’s very similar,” Johnson said, comparing this year’s course with the one she raced as part of the Nor-Am Cup Finals in March 2016. “It’s definitely a very technical hill. Aztec is very tricky. It was a little faster today; a little quicker, but it’s really nice.”
Johnson only competed in two World Cup downhills last season, her best finish being 28th in Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany. Since stepping up to full-time World Cup status this year, it’s been a different story. She was 11th in the season-opening downhill at Lake Louise, Canada, and repeatedly finished top 30.
Her best finish was 10th in a Jan. 28 downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. She was 15th in the Feb. 12 downhill at the World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Johnson said the Aspen speed course might be too technical for her aggressive style, but the success she found here last winter is certainly giving her confidence heading into Wednesday’s race.
“If I had not done well here, then I might definitely be really nervous. But I know I can ski well here, so it’s just about executing on race day,” Johnson said. “It’s a bummer we don’t ski speed here more often for World Cup, because it’s truly an amazing World Cup hill. So hopefully this will give Aspen a little push.”
Johnson enters Wednesday’s downhill final ranked No. 17 in the discipline standings. Stuhec leads with 497 points, while Italy’s Sofia Goggia is 97 points behind, the only person with the ability to catch Stuhec. A maximum of 100 points can be earned by winning the race.
Goggia was second in Tuesday’s training run, 0.89 seconds behind Stuhec. American Lindsey Vonn was third, 0.96 seconds back of Stuhec. Vonn continues to battle an illness that leaves her winded.
“I thought I skied well today. For some reason I’m really slow on top, so I have to look at my flats,” Vonn said Tuesday. “I feel I have a good handle on the course. If I could breathe a little bit better tomorrow, that would be helpful. But I’ll attack either way.”
Vonn competed in the 2007 women’s downhill race in Aspen, taking fourth. She is sixth in the downhill standings entering Wednesday’s race, 297 points behind Stuhec.
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