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Petra Vlhova of Slovakia finished 16th in a World Cup downhill in Crans Montana, Switzerland, on Sunday, picking up 15 points and tying Mikaela Shiffrin of Edwards for the overall World Cup lead with just three events left on the calendar.
Shiffrin has been resting and recharging after racing in six events at the Beijing Winter Olympics and did not compete in the two downhill races in Crans Montana. Vlhova gained two points on Shiffrin Saturday with a 29th-place finish.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team on Sunday confirmed Shiffrin will return to action next weekend in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Vlhova is the defending overall World Cup champion who raced in every event last season. She had been more selective this Olympic season, but left the Olympics early after winning a gold medal in the slalom and now appears poised to race in all the disciplines throughout the remainder of the season.
Shiffrin, a three-time overall champion, is seeking a fourth title, which would tie her for the American record with former Vail resident Lindsey Vonn. A two-time Olympic gold medalist from previous Games, Shiffrin was unable to capture a medal at the Beijing Olympics.
Shiffrin and Vlhova are now tied in the overall chase, which tallies points earned in all racing disciplines throughout the entire season, with 1,026 points apiece.
Priska Nufer of Switzerland won Sunday’s downhill on home snow, with snowboarding and skiing Olympic medalist and Saturday’s winner Ester Ledecka, of the Czech Republic, in second, and Sofia Goggia of Italy in third. Isabella Wright, of Salt Lake City, Utah, was the top American finisher in 10th place.
Up next, the women head to Lenzerheide, Switzerland, for super-G and giant slalom races March 5-6, followed by GS and slalom races March 11-12 in Are, Sweden, and concluding with every discipline at the World Cup Finals in Courchevel and Meribel, France, March 14-20.
Here’s the press release on Sunday’s race from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team:
It was another beautiful day at Crans-Montana, Switzerland for the second of two FIS Ski World Cup downhills for the women, and Bella Wright led the way for the Americans with a career-best 10th place.
After snagging a career-best fourth place in Saturday’s downhill, Switzerland’s Priska Nufer wowed the hometown crowd on Sunday, earning her first World Cup podium and first World Cup victory in one fell swoop. Czech Republic Ester Ledecka carried the confidence she gained with Saturday’s victory, skiing boldly and solidly into second place, just 11 hundredths off of Nufer, followed by Italy’s Sofia Goggia in third.
After finishing 30th in Saturday’s downhill, Wright put the hammer down and rocketed from bib 37 to land in 10th, after posting solid split times all the way down. She ended up .55 seconds off the pace set by Nufer. Wright said she didn’t do anything special…she just went out, skied a lot more like herself, and “felt really calm.” And it certainly showed. “My run didn’t feel lightning fast,” she reflected. “I think that’s because I was so in control and over my skis which resulted in a solid run.”
After struggling early in the season and then sustaining a talus bone fracture in her right ankle, Wright felt relieved to find the speed she knows she’s capable of on the world stage, despite the fact that she often feels pain in her ankle. “I’m just so so happy that it worked out today,” she continued. “I’ve really been struggling with how many things have hit me the past six months. I’ve skied with pain every day since I got back on skis. It’s been a bunch of little nagging things, and my ankle has good days and bad days. So I’m really just happy that I pushed through all the pain but especially proud that I pushed through the mental barrier today of not feeling confident due to lack of time on snow.”
Wright has a message for those who feel like time is against them. She says, “…Just know that you have it within you to show up when you desire it most. Yesterday was a tough day, today was the best feeling I’ve ever had crossing the finish. Things can change in an instant and I’m so grateful to finally showcase what I’m capable of. To be so close to the podium makes me so giddy. Hungry for more. And I’m so grateful to my team and teammates for pushing me each day to just try to ski like I know how to ski. Today was a great day, and I’m so grateful for today after all the days of doubt that I’ve felt.”
She will carry the good energy onward, saying, “I have great memories from last year in Crans…and this year even better memories. I love the track here and I’m excited to come back next year!”
Jackie Wiles finished just outside of the points, in 32nd, with teammate Alix Wilkinson in 39th. Keely Cashman did not finish and had a pretty big crash, but is thankfully OK, as she skied down and had a smile on her face in the finish area.
After her podium finish on Sunday, Goggia remains the leader in the downhill standings with 482 points to Switzerland’s Corrine Suter with 407 points. Slovakian Petra Vlhova finished a respectable 16th in Sunday’s downhill, earning 15 points. She will walk away from the weekend tied with Mikaela Shiffrin in the overall standings, with 1,026 points. Goggia is sitting in third with 851 points.
The women will now travel to Lenzerheide, Switzerland for a super-G and giant slalom series on March 5-6, where Shiffrin will return to World Cup action.