Flury’s downhill win at ski worlds aided by warm weather

February 11, 2023 GMT
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Switzerland's Jasmine Flury speeds down the course on her way to win the alpine ski, women's World Championship downhill, in Meribel, France, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gabriele Facciotti)
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Switzerland's Jasmine Flury speeds down the course on her way to win the alpine ski, women's World Championship downhill, in Meribel, France, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gabriele Facciotti)

MERIBEL, France (AP) — When the sun started beaming down on the Roc de Fer course, Jasmine Flury’s smile grew brighter.

The Swiss skier, wearing bib No. 2 and unheralded at previous major events, was sitting in the leader’s chair for the women’s downhill at the world championships Saturday but “definitely not” expecting to win. Then she saw most of the later starters struggle on the softened snow early in their runs on the deteriorating course.

“The waiting was worse than my nerves at the start. When I crossed the finish line, I thought it was a good run but I was surprised,” Flury said after her time held up and she won gold.

Flury edged Austrian skier Nina Ortlieb by 0.04 seconds on a rough day for Sofia Goggia and most other pre-race favorites.

Goggia, widely regarded the top gold contender after winning four of the six World Cup downhills this seasons, was disqualified after the Italian skied through a gate.

Flury’s Swiss teammate Corinne Suter came 0.12 behind to take bronze. Suter was the defending champion and won Olympic gold a year ago.

There were a few sparse clouds when the race started, then it cleared up and the sunshine seemed to break down the course, slowing racers who started after the first 10, with most of them already a few tenths off the lead at the second split about 30 seconds into their run.

“The other days when it was colder it was better to start later because the course got slicker,” said Elena Curtoni, the best Italian finisher in 13th. “Today it was better to start earlier. That’s skiing. It’s an outdoor sport.”

It’s supposed to be even warmer for the men’s downhill on Sunday, although much of the L’Eclipse course in Courchevel is in the shade.

Flury has won one World Cup race in her career — a super-G in her native Switzerland more than five yeas ago — but had no previous top-10 results from 10 starts at worlds and Olympics.

“With Corinne on the podium ... now, it’s unbelievable,” Flury said.

Suter had feared she would miss the worlds after a nasty crash in a downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, last month.

“I was very lucky my body was OK but I can’t remember the whole crash. The first thought was if I could race at world champs. I didn’t know,” Suter said.

“It’s one of the most special medals for me, because the last days were so difficult for me. I didn’t know if I was able to ski fast. I had many, many doubts.”

Ortlieb also crashed in Cortina and had a concussion. The Austrian sat out the 2021-22 season with a knee injury.

Ortlieb said she knows where she lost 0.04 to Flury, “but everyone makes some small mistakes. I’m happy with my silver.”

Ortlieb’s grandfather is from Strasbourg and her father, Patrick Ortlieb, won the 1992 Olympic downhill in nearby Val d’Isere.

“We have a special relationship (with France), and my grandpa was a really great chef so we always enjoyed a lot of French cuisine,” said the 26-year-old Ortlieb, adding she spent “holidays in France in autumn.”

Mikaela Shiffrin sat out the race, three days after winning silver in super-G. The American was expected back at the worlds for the giant slalom on Thursday.

Goggia, the 2018 Olympic champion from Italy, was 0.15 behind Flury but made up time in the more turny second half of the Roc de Fer course.

She slightly lost balance on the outside of her right ski, then went through a gate with her left ski. She narrowly avoided falling and finished her run in third position, but was disqualified.

“This was really a strange behavior from my skis. It took me inside and I didn’t expect it,” Goggia said. “This hurts inside and it’s painful.”

Goggia had led two of the three trainings this week, most notably Friday, when she was nearly a half second faster than any other racer.

The Italian ski team won both previous women’s races at worlds, with Federica Brignone taking gold in the combined and Marta Bassino winning the super-G. But the team has since been mourning former teammate Elena Fanchini, who died Wednesday at the age of 37 from a tumor.

“It’s been an emotional week,” Curtoni said.

There was a minute of silence for Fanchini before the winners ceremony.

Other skiers tipped as gold candidates finished well behind.

Two-time world champion Ilka Stuhec placed sixth and Lara Gut-Behrami, the 2016 overall World Cup champion who has 11 medals from major events, was ninth. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel trailed in 10th.

American downhiller Breezy Johnson was among the fastest starters but went down and slid off the course halfway through her run. She got up and skied down unhurt.

“What today proves is that you have to go out and you have to execute and you have to finish it, and today I didn’t,” Johnson said. “People see what I did, or what Mikaela did, and it’s like: ‘You lose races.’ No, you have to go out and win them, every day. And you have to win from the top all the way to the bottom, day in and day out, That’s what makes it hard.”


Willemsen contributed from Vienna.


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