The Austrian women’s speed team has had quite the season, displaying dominance on the World Cup speed circuit by squeezing three to four women into the top 10 during each downhill race, sometimes even more. Prior to the final race in Soldeu, Mirjam Puchner was the only woman remaining on the Austrian speed team that had yet to finish on the podium. So of course, in her final race of the season, she won by three-hundredths of a second. Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg finished second, trailed closely by Switzerland’s Corinne Suter, eight hundredths back from Puchner.
In February 2017, Puchner fell victim to the St. Moritz track, breaking her tibia and fibula during downhill training. Since, she has struggled to find her way back into top starting spots on the World Cup circuit, spending much of her 2018/19 season on the Europa Cup circuit as she tried to earn a better starting position on the World Cup. On Wednesday, she came from bib 18 to take the victory. Prior to Soldeu, her best finish on the World Cup tour this season had been a sixth place downhill result in Val Gardena.
“It was a very hard time. I was so far away from skiing sometimes and I always tried to do my best during this time after my injury. Now, I’m very happy that I could win this race,” said Puchner.
Despite finishing in 11th in Soldeu, Nicole Schmidhofer held onto the lead in the overall downhill standings by 96 points to win the crystal globe, while her teammates battled it out for the second and third spots on the podium. In the end, Stephanie Venier finished sixth overall, surpassing Ramona Siebenhofer to take second in the overall standings, making the final downhill podium an Austrian sweep.
After her initial set of downhill wins in Lake Louise, Schmidhofer held onto the leader bib for the entirety of the season. She podiumed during four downhill races and finished consistently in the top 15 to hang on to the top spot. The last time the Austrian women’s speed team claimed a downhill title was back in 2007 when Renate Goetschl won the globe in Lenzerheide. Schmidhofer remembers being a spectator during the race as a teenager and asking Goestchl if she could touch her globe. Now, she has her own.
“After the weekend in Lake Louise, I thought the red jersey looked good on my race suit and I thought if I could wear it in the home races in Austria that would be nice,” said Schmidhofer. “So I fought week to week to keep the globe and the red jersey, and I can’t describe the feeling.”
After a disappointing World Championships, when not a single Austrian woman earned a medal (in speed or tech), an all red downhill podium and a final regular-season victory were a positive close to the season for the speed team. The only loss amongst Wednesday’s many victories was the crash of Cornelia Huetter, which led to her being taken off the hill in a toboggan for further assessment of her injuries.
“The feeling in the group is really good,” said Schmidhofer. “We are a strong team and we push ourselves together to the top. It’s so much fun with the girls and now with Mirjam today, everybody in our group has a podium this year. Hopefully, we come back next year really good and hopefully, Cornelia’s injury isn’t so bad and we can be a strong team next year.”
During World Finals, the top 25 athletes in each discipline are invited to compete. In this season’s downhill final, American and Canadian athletes were noticeably absent, amongst many household names that had to withdraw due to late-season injuries. Early on in the week, both Ragnhild Mowinckel and Lara Gut-Behrami incurred injuries during downhill training. Ilka Stuhec, who had been sitting in third in the overall downhill standings, was unable to defend her podium position due to injury.
Next up on the women’s docket is the super-G taking place Thursday, March 14th. The race kicks off at 10:30 am CET, 5:30 am EST and viewed on the Olympic Channel, or streamed on NBC Sports Gold or OlympicChannel.com. A re-run of men’s and women’s super-G will air at 11:00 am EST on NBSCN.
- Mirjam Puchner (AUT): 1:32.91 – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Viktoria Rebensburg (GER): +0.03 – Stoeckli/ Lange
- Corinne Suter (SUI): +0.08 – Head/Head/Head
- Nadia Fanchini (ITA): +0.22 – Dynastar/Lange
- Tamara Tippler (AUT): +0.24 – Salomon/Salomon
- Sofia Goggia (ITA): +0.35 – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Nicol Delago (ITA): +0.38 – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Stephanie Venier (AUT): +0.56 – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Kira Weidle (GER): +0.74 – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Tina Weirather (LIE): +0.90 – Head/Head/Head
For full FIS results, please click here.