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Lake Louise is hosting the first women’s World Cup speed races of the 2022-’23 season this weekend and the start list will look a little different than year’s past—at least, for the Americans.
In a surprise move, Mikaela Shiffrin has decided to skip the Lake Louise World Cup—her first time skipping the speed series since 2015. And it’s not because she finished off the podium in Killington over Thanksgiving weekend.
It was “a decision she made prior to Killington—in order to focus on tech training in preparation for the Sestriere tech series,” reported her spokesperson Megan Harrod.
Sestriere, Italy, is hosting the next women’s World Cup slalom and giant slalom races on December 10-11.
Shiffrin made her World Cup speed debut at Lake Louise in 2015 and won her first downhill there in 2017. Of the six World Cup podiums that she has scored in downhill to date, three have come at the iconic Canadian resort.
Watch: Mikaela Shiffrin wins first career downhill at 2017 Lake Louise World Cup
Earlier this fall, Shiffrin—who’s now 27 and starting her 12th year on the World Cup tour—said that she wanted to ski more super-Gs and downhills this year. But with the traveling and the number of required training runs to enter each World Cup speed event, downhills can consume an entire week—time that can occasionally be better spent logging more training miles on tech courses. And Shiffrin has always been a skier who gains confidence from training.
“I don’t want to take on too much and have that backfire,” she said by phone earlier this fall. “If you look at the timeline of my career, where I’m at on that timeline is closer to the end than it is to the beginning. So as I get closer towards the end of my career, I’m just trying to be smart, and I always have been choosy about which races I do anyway.”
But the U.S. will not be without podium stars in Lake Louise. Breezy Johnson is returning to World Cup racing this weekend. The 26-year-old speed skier was a favorite to win a downhill medal at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing until she suffered two crashes last January that tore up cartilage and ligaments in her right knee. After surgery in early February, she dove into rehab and was back on snow by the end of summer.
Johnson spent part of November training and racing at Copper Mountain in Colorado. In the second of two super-G races at Copper, Johnson finished sixth, beating reigning downhill World Cup champion Sofia Goggia from Italy and finishing only two-tenths of a second behind downhill Olympic gold medalist Corinne Suter from Switzerland.
“Thanks Copper for a wonderful camp!” Johnson posted on Instagram over Thanksgiving weekend. “So thankful to be healthy and back training and racing. Headed home for a few days before race time.”
Like Shiffrin, Johnson also made her downhill debut at Lake Louise in 2015. Since then, she has finished on the World Cup podium seven times, including back-to-back second place finishes in the Lake Louise downhills last season.
Other Americans on the start list for Lake Louise: Olympians Bella Wright, Tricia Mangan, and Keely Cashman, and junior world bronze medalist Lauren Macuga. Mangan, in 11th, scored the highest finish for the U.S. in combined in Beijing, while Cashman was the top American in the women’s downhill in 17th.
Unfortunately, downhill hopeful Jacqueline “Jackie” Wiles is still sidelined. In April, she had another surgery, this one to repair a torn patella tendon in her right knee (not the same knee she ripped up in a crash right before the 2018 Olympic Games).
“Another off season, another surgery,” Wiles posted on Instagram after the surgery. “Even if the sport I love feels undoubtedly cruel at times, I’m ready to take on rehab again with full force.”