Canada's Turgeon Wins Women's Downhill

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ST. MORITZ, Switzerland Feb 9, 2003 (AP by Nesha Starcevic)--Melanie Turgeon won the downhill at the world championships Sunday, Canada's first title in the showcase race in 10 years. Alexandra Meissnitzer of Austria and Corinne Rey-Bellet of Switzerland shared the silver medal.

For the United States, Jonna Mendes was sixth, with Kirsten Clark 19th, Libby Ludlow 23rd and Caroline Lalive 30th.

Turgeon's gold came 10 years after Kate Pace won the downhill for Canada at the worlds in Morioka, Japan. "I charged the whole way down-I needed to be the world champion,'' said Turgeon, who was screaming with joy in the finish area.

The 26-year-old Canadian had earned a record five medals at the 1994 junior worlds and finished fifth in her first World Cup race. But she has never won a downhill on the World Cup circuit, her only victory coming in a super giant slalom three years ago. That same season she was runner-up in the Super G World Cup standings.

"I saw that the medals here are much bigger than in the juniors so I said to myself, 'I want one of those,''' Turgeon said.

Turgeon, who was sixth in the opening Super G at the worlds, covered the Engiadina course in 1 minute, 34.30 seconds.

Meissnitzer was 0.11 seconds behind to tie for second with Rey-Bellet, who had been leading before Turgeon's run.

Meissnizter's excellent run bumped fellow Austrian Brigitte Obermoser from the top three. Another Austrian, 1999 champion Renate Goetschl, was fifth. Olympic champion Carole Montillet of France was seventh, while defending champion Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria, who won the Super G, finished 12th.

Turgeon gave Canada its first gold medal of the two-week championships. Her best results this season before the worlds were a sixth in a downhill and a Super G and a third-place finish in a Super G three weeks ago in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

"For some reason, I was always holding back before, I was always asking myself, 'Why not me?' So I just went for it today,'' Turgeon said.

Meissnitzer won the Super G and giant slalom titles at the 1999 worlds in Vail, Colo., and also captured the overall World Cup crown that year. She missed nearly the entire following season because of injury and had a slow comeback.

But she had two fourth-place finishes at last year's Olympics in Salt lake City and had a second place in a Super G this season. She also had a second and a third in two giant slalom races this year.

"Getting a medal in the downhill was the last thing I expected,'' Meissnitzer said. "I took a lot of risks and changed a lot of things in my training,'' Meissnitzer said.

Rey-Bellet said it was a great relief to win a medal at home.

"I was well aware that I had to take risks,'' she said. "I was nervous at the start. That's what I need to perform well.''

Lucia Recchia of Italy sustained a concussion after a fall, race doctor Adrian Urfer said. She was taken to a hospital for further examination.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press