LAKE LOUISE – The Czeck Republic's Ester Ledecká had a look of surprise on her face Friday (Dec. 6) after she skied across the finish line of the alpine downhill world cup at Lake Louise with what would be the fastest time on the track that day.
The Audi FIS Ski Women's World Cup race was delayed twice and the start gate was moved down lower on the mountain as a result of snowy conditions on the course.
The 24-year-old was critical of her own performance in what was her first downhill world cup victory with a time of 1:31.87. Second place went to Switzerland's Corinne Suter (1:32.22) and third place was Austria's Stephanie Vennier (1:32.32).
"In some ways, I was not that good," she said after the race. "I thought it was not that good of a run, but in the end it was fast.
"So that is all that matters."
Ledecká made history at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeonchang, winning gold medals in alpine skiing for super-G and snowboarding for parallel giant slalom. She became the first person to win two gold medals at the same Olympics in two different disciplines.
She spent a month training at Nakiska in Kananaskis Country to prepare for the two world cup downhill races and the super-G held over the weekend at the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
"It is always good to have such a long preparation before the race, because I am never used to it," she said on Saturday (Dec. 7) after placing fourth with a time of 1:50.37.
"This was the only race where I can do my preparation on skis and I have a lot of time to prepare and race."
Ledecká said the hardest part of trying to race in both alpine skiing and snowboarding is her schedule.
"All the races go at the same time, so I have to always choose and that is the saddest part because I would like to do it all," she said.
The top Canadian alpine racer over the weekend was Marie-Michele Gagnon, finished 28th (1:34.30) Friday, 26th Saturday, and placed 19th on Sunday (Dec. 8) in the super-G.
For Gagnon, finishing in the top 30 and receiving points as a result was her goal.
"That was my goal – it is a modest goal I think," she said. "I did not score any world cup points in downhill last year, so when you think about it – it is a good start."
The 30-year-old from Lac-Etchemi, QC, is new to the speed side of alpine racing, having focused on the technical races like giant slalom in the past. She said that she needs to be patient and stay focused on learning.
"I am still in the stages of learning and [gaining] experience on the speed side," she added.
Austria's Nicole Schmidhofer won the downhill world cup on Saturday with a time of 1:49.92. Last year, Schmidhofer won both downhill world cups at Lake Louise and was the winner fo the crystal globe for downhill racing and she was seventh in Friday's races.
"Yesterday, there was too much snow and I lost my speed ... it was good skiing, but in the end seventh place is not what I am looking for," she said. "Today, it was good skiing and I was back on the podium."
U.S. ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin was second (1:50.05) and Italy's Francesca Marsaglia was third (1:50.35) in her first world cup racing podium result.
Shiffrin was 10th on Friday and said after she inspected the course on Saturday, she felt confident she knew where she was going and what she needed to do.
"My goal today was to do basically everything the same, but more aggressive and let go," Shiffrin said. "I was able to do that, which is a big win."
Sunday's super-G was won by Germany's Viktoria Rebensburg with a time of 1:20, followed in second place by Italy's Nicol Delago (1:20.35) and in third Switzerland's Corinne Suter (1:20.42).
Schmidhofer was eighth (1:21.10) and Shiffrin was 10th (1:21.18).
Canadian races Candace Crawford and Roni Remme had mixed results over the weekend. In the super-G, Crawford was 35th and Remme did not finish her run. On Saturday, Remme was 40th and Crawford did not finish her run. On Friday, Remme was 40th and Crawford was 47th.
Canmore's Philp seventh at Beaver Creek
Meanwhile, on the men's alpine ski racing side, Canmore's Trevor Philp had the gest giant slalom race of his live.
The 27-year-old technical downhill skier finished in seventh at the Xfinity Birds of Prey World Cup on Sunday (Dec. 8) in Beaver Creek, Colorado, a new personal best result in GS.
"I think I had a good plan at the start of the day and stuck with it," said Philp, in a press release. "I love the area I had friends and family in the crowd and I know the track really well. So I just stuck with my plan despite the snow and the track being a little less than favourable. I was happy to execute the plan and come out with a 7th place finish.”
Despite poor weather conditions, Philp's hung on for the top 10 spot.
"I was nervous for the second run," he said. "I was seeing that conditions were variable with fog, but I just went back to my plan. Unfortunately, I had a little mistake close to the bottom and almost went out but I was happy to pull it off and come across the finish line.”