Ilka Stuhec is downhill world champion; Lindsey Vonn 3rd
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia is the new world champion in downhill while Lindsey Vonn took bronze trying to regain a title she last won in 2009.
Stuhec confirmed her status as pre-race favorite, finishing 0.40 seconds clear of surprise silver medalist Stephanie Venier of Austria.
Vonn was 0.45 behind Stuhec, who led at all but one time check and clocked the fastest speed of 125.6 kph (78 mph).
The victory was a shared triumph for the Stuhec family. Her mother, Darja, is the technician preparing her race skis.
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In a breakout season, the 26-year-old Stuhec started by winning three straight World Cup downhills while Vonn recovered from breaking her right upper arm in November.
Though Vonn quickly — and typically — returned to form in January by winning a downhill at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, she acknowledged arriving at St. Moritz short of full confidence.
Still, the 32-year-old American set one world championships record. She became the oldest female medalist, taking the mark from Anita Wachter of Austria, who won giant slalom bronze days before her 32nd birthday in 1999.
Vonn now has four career medals in worlds downhills, though only one gold eight years ago in Val d’Isere, France.
Vonn might have missed the podium, finishing just 0.07 ahead of fourth-placed Sofia Goggia of Italy who was fastest at the final time check before losing her racing line.
Indeed, Goggia could have taken the title but relied on an agile recovery just to complete the course when her skis almost crossed. The 24-year-old Italian shouted in frustration upon crossing the finish line.
Stuhec fulfilled the potential she showed as junior world champion in downhill in 2008.
She never had a top-3 finish in more than 100 World Cup races entering this season. That changed with back-to-back downhill wins at Lake Louise, Canada — a course widely known as Lake Lindsey in tribute to Vonn’s domination there over the past decade.
The race unfolded under bright sunshine and some patches of light cloud, one day after the men’s marquee downhill was postponed by fog. That rescheduled race was due to start one hour after the women finished.
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Herman is the freestyle skiing winner of the Summit Daily’s Peak Performers project, which honors the greatest athletes and most influential figures in Summit county ski and snowboard history.