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St. Moritz, Switzerland (Feb. 9) AP –After the injuries, the doubts and the pressure, Melanie Turgeon finally got a chance to laugh at all those who said she was done as a skier.
She won the gold medal in the downhill at the World Championships on Sunday, the first time a Canadian has done that in 10 years.
“There have been so many highs and lows,” she said. “I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles.”
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.
“I proved I’m a force on the World Cup,” said Mendes, who won the bronze in the super giant slalom. “It wasn’t a podium but sixth is nothing to be disappointed at in the world championships.”
Turgeon’s gold came 10 years after Kate Pace won the downhill for Canada at the worlds in Morioka, Japan.
“There was a lot of pressure. People who stopped believing in me and said I would never make it,” said Turgeon, a 26-year-old skier from Quebec. “To them, today, I say, ha, ha, ha.”
Turgeon, sixth in the opening Super G, covered the sun-soaked Engiadina course in 1 minute, 34.30 seconds. She was screaming with joy in the finish area.
“It means a lot,” Turgeon said. “Ten years ago, at my first worlds, Kate Pace won the gold. … Six world championships later it’s my turn.”
Turgeon captured 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.
There was a time when it seemed all her early promise would not amount to much. She lost faith, describing herself as “worthless” and a “piece of garbage.”
“It was a really bad part of my life,” Turgeon recalled. “Maybe I learned from it but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.”
Slowly, Turgeon clawed her way back. She refused to let critics stand in her way. Nor would she be stopped by shin splints, a bad back and sinus problems.
“It was tough but I knew I had talent,” she said. My coach would always tell me, ‘Don’t waste your talent. Keep working. One day it will come.’
“It wasn’t easy but it made the victory even sweeter. I won it because I really worked for it.
Her victory Sunday gave Canada its first gold medal of the two-week championship.
I really deserved this,” said Turgeon, who was on anti-inflammatory medication this week because of her back. “I just wanted to leave St. Moritz with a medal and I thought ‘why not gold?’ There were no other events for me, so that left the downhill.”
Meissnitzer was 0.11 seconds behind to tie for second with Rey-Bellet, who had been leading before Turgeon’s run.
Meissnitzer won the Super G and giant slalom titles at the 1999 worlds in Vail, Colo., and also the overall World Cup crown that year.
Her excellent run bumped compatriot 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.
Lucia Recchia of Italy sustained a concussion after a fall and was taken to a hospital, race doctor Adrian Urfer said.
WOMEN’S DOWNHILL RESULTS
1. Melanie Turgeon, Canada, 1 minute, 34.30 seconds.
2. Corinne Rey Bellet, Switzerland, 1:34.41.
2. Alexandra Meissnitzer, Austria, 1:34.41.
4. Brigitte Obermoser, Austria, 1:34.57.
5. Renate Goetschl, Austria, 1:34.65.
6. Jonna Mendes, United States, 1:34.82.
7. Carole Montillet, France, 1:34.877.
8. Christine Sponring, Austria, 1:34.97.
9. Isolde Kostner, Italy, 1:34.98.
10. Monika Dumermuth, Switzerland, 1:35.02.
11. Sylviane Berthod, Switzerland, 1:35.03.
12. Michaela Dorfmeister, Austria, 1:35.09.
13. Daniela Ceccarelli, Italy, 1:35.10.
14. Hilde Gerg, Germany, 1:35.16.
14. Melanie Suchet, France, 1:35.16.
16. Regina Haeusl, Germany, 1:35.21.
17. Maria Riesch, Germany, 1:35.29.
18. Emily Brydon, Canada, 1:35.32.
19. Kirsten Clark, United States, 1:35.44.
20. Karen Putzer, Italy, 1:35.52.
21. Janette Hargin, Sweden, 1:35.56.
22. Catherine Borghi, Switzerland, 1:35.58.
23. Libby Ludlow, United States, 1:35.81.
24. Kelly Vanderbeek, Canada, 1:35.96.
25. Isabelle Huber, Germany, 1:36.03.
25. Jessica Lindell-Vikarby, Sweden, 1:36.03.
27. Genevieve Simard, Canada, 1:36.04.
28. Carolina Ruiz Castillo, Spain, 1:36.07.
29. Ingrid Jacquemod, France, 1:36.25.
30. Caroline Lalive, United States, 1:36.43.
31. Gabriela Martinovova, Czech Republic, 1:37.15.
32. Dagny Kristjansdottir, Iceland, 1:37.74.
33. Chimene Alcott, Britain, 1:37.86.
34. Hedda Berntsen, Norway, 1:38.10.
35. Jana Staffenova, Slovakia, 1:38.29.
36. Rowena Bright, Australia, 1:38.67.
Lucia Recchia, Italy, and Anastasij Popkova, Russia, did not finish.
Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press