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Crashing through at Zauchensee women's World Cup

Marie-Michèle Gagnon finishes fifth in women's downhill
Marie-Michèle Gagnon placed fifth in the downhill World Cup event this weekend. Gagnon says it feels like she's building up to the Olympics. Photo courtesy of Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press

No one ever said winning was easy, and last weekend’s women’s World Cup even in Zauchensee, Austria set out to prove it.


With close competition, and even closer times Canada’s Marie-Michèle Gagnon finished fifth in the women’s downhill – the top eight competitors finishing within a second of the leader included the Czech Olympic champion Ester Ledecka, and Italian Frederica Brignone who won the super-G later in the weekend.


Downhill

Saturday at the fourth women’s World Cup downhill event of the season, marked the end of a streak of bad luck for Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami, and the end of a winning streak for Italian Olympic champion Sofia Goggia.


Coming in at one minute 45.78 seconds with perfect course conditions, Gut-Behrami topped the podium winning by one-tenth of a second. However, her past couple of months have been less than perfect.

After the World Cup season opening in Soelden Austria, she said that nothing went as planned. “I was sick in America, then I crashed, then I had COVID.”


Gut-Behrami competed in the Lake Louise World Cup, coming 17th and 23rd in the downhills, while battling a cold. She went on to win the super-G in St. Moritz on home soil, but crashed the next day. This was quickly followed by a positive COVID-19 test that sent her into self-isolation. Although she now officially has two wins the season, she has missed nearly four weeks of racing.


Goggia, who has won the last seven downhills she’s competed in, may have opened the door for Gut-Behrami’s win when she crashed halfway down her run.


During a classically gutsy run for the Italian – who had posted the fastest time in training – Goggia lost control of her left ski midway down the run. Losing her right ski, her airbag under her race suit inflated before she hit the ground and slid into the safety netting.


Goggia sat on course for a few seconds before giving a thumbs-up and skiing down the rest of the course.

Of the crash, Goggia said, “I’m bruised and sore but fortunately intact.”


Canadian Gagnon finished 0.68 behind leader Gut-Behrami, achieving a personal best on the Kälberloch course – known to fire skiers out of the start gate at over 100km/h.


“This course is really special to me; it’s where I had my first win. I won the combined in 2014 right before Sochi,” she said.


Super-G

Sunday’s super-G, the fifth of the World Cup season returned to the Kälberloch with perfect sunny conditions. Italian teammate of Goggia, Federica Brignone topped the podium, after a gutsy approach in the speed turning section of the course.


“It is not so easy, we are all so close,” Brignone said of her win. The top 20 of the super-G event finished within 1.04 seconds of her win time.


After her crash the previous day, Goggia started in the super-G event.


“My whole body hurts,” she said before the race. “But skiing is better than going for a walk.” Goggia finished 0.92 behind her teammate, placing 19th.


Gagnon finished in 34th (+1.89), and teammate Candace Crawford finished 42nd (+2.81). Ledecka, finished ninth just ahead of Gut-Behrami the day after her downhill win.


Gagnon, now 32, originally raced super-G in Zauchensee in 2007 at the Junior World Ski Championships. As she leads the Canadian Alpine team through the World Cup season and into the Olympics she says “It's good to feel like I'm building going into the Olympics. That was always the goal, to build up to February and I'm definitely one of those skiers who likes to go one step at a time."


Next week the women’s World Cup will be in Cortina d’Ampezzo for another downhill and super-G weekend.

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