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Competitions and Events

Breezy Johnson Nabs Back to Back Downhill Podiums

Johnson led the U.S. Women’s Alpine Team in a successful World Cup weekend in Val d’Isere.

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World Cup speed events are always exciting and dramatic, but this weekend’s downhill and super-G events in Val d’Isere, France, were some for the books. Anticipation for first women’s downhill and super-G events of the 2021 Tour ran high, and the women did not disappoint, battling a challenging course that featured tricky compressions, big jumps, and disorienting stretches of shade and sunlight. 

Despite it all, the ladies of the U.S. Alpine Team managed to collect career-best results—headlined by Breezy Johnson’s back-to-back downhill podium finishes. Here’s a recap of the first two downhill events and first super-G of the women’s 2021 World Cup season.

Dec. 18 Downhill: Breezy Johnson Nabs First World Cup Podium

Breezy Johnson, 2020 Val d'Isere World Cup Downhill
American Breezy Johnson on her way to her first World Cup podium after finishing third in the Dec. 18 Val d’Isere downhille. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

The Val d’Isere downhill is a staple on the World Cup circuit, and it’s one of the trickiest downhills that women face on the Tour. This year’s course upheld that legacy and featured multiple challenging compressions right before or after sweeping turns.

One particular section threw multiple seasoned World Cup racers in the same spot, including Nicole Schmidhofer from Austria, last season’s Overall World Cup Champion Federica Brignone, Switzerland’s Joana Haehlen, and American Alice McKennis. Each crashed violently into the same section of netting after failing to transition edges quickly enough after a significant compression. Schmidhofer had to be transported down the hill in a sled after sustaining a suspected knee injury; the other racers who crashed were all able to ski down themselves.

Video: Four Crashes on 2020 Val d’Isere Women’s Downhill

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Switzerland’s Corinne Suter, 2020 World Cup Downhill and Super-G Champion, managed the difficult sections of the course best and collected her first win of the 2021 Tour. Italy’s Sofia Goggia, 2018 Downhill Champion, finishished just 0.11 seconds behind Suter to take second. American Breezy Johnson battled the course to round out the podium in third, only 0.20 seconds behind Suter’s winning time.

Watch: American Breezy Johnson Takes Third in Val d’Isere Downhill

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The third-place finish marked the American’s first World Cup podium and her best result since coming back from back-to-back knee injuries during the 2018 and 2019 World Cup seasons.

“I love Val d’Isere, this is where I first felt at home on the World Cup. I came here in 2016 … I did well after some really bad training runs, and that was the first time I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I belong on the World Cup,’” Johnson told U.S. Ski and Snowboard after the race.

American Keely Cashman also posted a career-best result by finishing 17th after starting with bib 46; teammate Jacqueline Wiles was the third American to collect World Cup points in Friday’s race by finishing 23rd.

Dec. 19 Downhill: Johnson Repeats Podium Finish

Sofia Goggia wins 2020 Val d'Isere Downhill Dec. 19
Sofia Goggia claimed victory in the second Val d’Isere downhill. Corinne Suter finished second, with Breezy Johnson rounding out the podium in third. Photo: Getty Images

The results from the second downhill on Val d’Isere’s challenging course looked much the same as the previous day’s, though Sofia Goggia was able to overcome Friday’s close margin to claim victory over Corinne Suter by 0.22 seconds. Johnson proved that she’s a contender this season by nabbing her second podium in two days, finishing just 0.03 seconds behind Suter to land in third.

Watch: Sofia Goggia Wins Val d’Isere Downhill

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“These podiums have been coming on for a while,” Johnson told U.S. Ski and Snowboard after landing her second World Cup podium. 

Video: Breezy Johnson Podium Repeat in Val d’Isere Downhill

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Keely Cashman also carried momentum from Friday’s race, finishing 16th despite skiing up onto the course fence at one point and losing valuable time. Teammate Jacqueline Wiles wasn’t far behind and finished 18th to add to her World Cup point total from Friday. Alice McKennis, who crashed in Friday’s first downhill, opted to skip the remaining Val d’Isere speed races.

After the first two downhills this season, Suter and Goggia are tied for first place in the event, with Johnson sitting in third.

Dec. 20 Super-G: Ester Ledecka Claims First World Cup Super-G Victory

Ester Ledecka, 2020 Val d'Isere Super-G winner
Ester Ledecka skis to her first World Cup super-G victory in Val d’Isere. Photo: Getty Images

The Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecka, best known for her surprising super-G win at the 2018 Olympics and for also competing in snowboarding races at the top level, took home her first-ever World Cup super-G victory on Sunday. Corinne Suter rounded out an already successful weekend by finishing just 0.02 seconds behind Ledecka to land in second.

Watch: Ester Ledecka Wins Val d’Isere Super-G

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Italy’s Federica Brignone, who crashed in Friday’s first downhill and skipped Saturday’s second downhill, returned to the start house for Sunday’s super-G and finished third, 0.35 seconds off Ledecka’s winning time.

The big news on the American front was Keely Cashman, who continued to best her results from the previous days’ races to skyrocket from a late start number and finish tenth, cracking the Top 10 for the first time in her career.

“These are my first World Cup speed races in Europe, so I didn’t know what to expect,” Cashman said after the race. “I wanted to ski confident and to ski how I know I can ski and I knew if I did that, it would work out. I’m happy with the results.”

Breezy Johnson wasn’t able to replicate her success from the previous days and finished just outside of the Top 30.

After this weekend’s races, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova still finds herself on top of the overall leader board with 465 points; Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin sits in second, just four points ahead of Italy’s Marta Bassino. 

Mikaela Shiffrin, who did not start in the Val d’Isere speed races in favor of focusing on the coming technical races, now finds herself in 6th place on the overall leader board.

From Val d’Isere the women’s World Cup circuit travels to Semmering, Austria, for the next technical events of the Tour. Racing will resume on Dec. 28 with a giant slalom, followed by a slalom event on Dec. 29.