There were some big names missing from the start list at this year’s Lake Louise World Cup downhill race, making room for other seasoned speed skiers to take their shot at the podium of the season’s first World Cup Downhill event. In the end, it was Austria’s Nicole Schmidhofer who posted the fastest time, with Michelle Gisin of Switzerland finishing 0.15 seconds behind her in second place, and Germany’s Kira Weidle landing in third, 0.50 seconds behind Schmidhofer.
With downhill favorites Lindsey Vonn and Italy’s Sofia Goggia out of the running due to injuries, all bets were off, with predictions surrounding this year’s top downhill racers being based on the three Lake Louise training runs leading up to the race on Friday. Schmidhofer, who consistently finished in the top 20 in last year’s World Cup speed events, posted the fastest time in Thursday’s third and final downhill training run, giving her the confidence she needed to repeat a winning run in Friday’s race.
Mikaela Shiffrin, who snagged her first World Cup downhill podium finishes at last year’s Lake Louise race, couldn’t quite replicate her performance from last year and finished in ninth, 1.23 seconds off Schmidhofer’s time. Her run today came as somewhat of a disappointment, considering her solid, fourth-fastest training run on Thursday.
Despite missing the podium, Shiffrin’s top 10 finish earned her more World Cup points, adding to her already extensive overall World Cup lead this season—with 339 FISA World Cup points, Shiffrin is currently 143 points ahead of Slovakia’s Petra Vlhová in second.
Americans Laurenne Ross (Bend, Ore.) and Alice Merryweather (Hingham, Mass.) also collected their first World Cup points of the season thanks to top 30 finishes in the Lake Louise downhill. Ross, who finished 15th in the downhill and in the Super G at the PyeongChang Olympics, will definitely be gunning for a top 10 finish in the second Lake Louise downhill on Saturday.
Merryweather also made a name for herself at the PyeongChang Olypmics, finishing 15th in the Alpine Combined and proving that she’s capable of strong results. She will also look to improve on Friday’s results in the second downhill race on Saturday.
Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec, the 2017 World Cup downhill and alpine combined champion, made her return to the World Cup circuit after 20 months off due to injury. Considering her long sabbatical from competition, Stuhec is close to picking up right where she left off, finishing in third in the second training run and slipping down only slightly to sixth in Friday’s official downhill race.
Based on Friday’s racing and results, Saturday’s second downhill is shaping up to be an exciting event where a number of the ladies will be skiing for redemption.