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.
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