The Associated PressASPEN, Colo. (AP) — Her downhill title pretty much secured, Ilka Stuhec could’ve played things safe.
The Slovenian didn’t. Under the weather and struggling to catch her breath, Lindsey Vonn could’ve held back.
The American wouldn’t. It made for quite a race.
Stuhec was able to hold off a hard-charging Vonn to win Wednesday and wrap up the overall downhill title at the World Cup Finals.
Vonn was going so fast at the finish that she couldn’t apply the brakes in time and briefly slid under the safety barriers. She was all smiles after being helped up.
“I was like a taco, burrito style,” she joked. “I was like, ‘I can’t breathe and can’t move, someone has to help me out of here real fast.’ I think that was one of the first times I’ve done that.
“I’m just happy nothing happened,” Vonn said. “So exhausted.”
On skis waxed and maintained by her mom, Stuhec finished in 1 minute, 36.95 seconds over a sun-splashed course. Vonn was 0.66 seconds back in second, while Sofia Goggia of Italy took third.
That was the same podium in a World Cup downhill race earlier this month on the course for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, just a slightly different order: Goggia, Vonn and Stuhec.
Stuhec has been a fascinating story this season. A World Cup veteran, the 26-year-old has been hampered by knee injuries that ultimately led to her losing funding on the Slovenian ski team. So she set up her own team, with her mother, Darja Crnko, serving as her ski technician. They’ve been rolling ever since.
And to think, early in the season, her goal was a modest top-10 finish.