Mikaela Shiffrin owned Lake Lindsey on Saturday.
Shiffrin won her first World Cup downhill in her fourth career start in the discipline, while a sore Lindsey Vonn was 12th in Lake Louise, Alberta.
Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion racing her least comfortable discipline, clocked 1:27.55 and won by .13 over German Viktoria Rebensburg.
“I’m not under the impression that, like, I can just go in and win downhills now,” said Shiffrin, adding that she plans to skip the next two World Cup downhills and the Olympic downhill. “Maybe on courses where I have a little experience and if I have some luck with the lighting.”
Vonn, who owns a record 18 wins at Lake Louise (leading fans to name it after her), was .93 behind, one day after crashing en route to a possible 78th World Cup win. She shrugged after crossing the finish line.
“I had a hard time trusting my [right] knee today,” Vonn, whose right knee surgeries forced her to miss the 2014 Olympics, said, according to media in Lake Louise. “It’s definitely pretty swollen and wasn’t very happy with me. I’ll go ice it now, and hopefully it settles down a little bit more.”
The race start was pushed back 75 minutes after a power outage stranded skiers on the chair lift for about 45 minutes (including Shiffrin and Vonn). The start was also moved down, which Shiffrin believed played to her advantage.
The victory wasn’t a complete shock.
That’s largely because the 22-year-old was third in Friday’s downhill at the same venue, her first podium finish in the discipline.
“I felt Lake Louise was a really good opportunity for me just because I have some experience on the track,” said Shiffrin, who is racing at the Canadian resort for a third straight season. “I wasn’t planning to win, but I was planning to come here and do my best, see what happened.”
Shiffrin has 33 World Cup victories — 27 in slalom, four in giant slalom and one each in super combined and downhill.
She is an Olympic gold favorite in slalom, a medal favorite in giant slalom and would be a contender in downhill, super-G and super combined. One Alpine skier captured four medals at one Olympics — Croatia’s Janica Kostelic in 2002.
But Shiffrin said after Saturday’s win that she probably will not race the Olympic downhill in three months. Racing all five individual events at the Olympics might be “a little ambitious.”
She doesn’t plan on racing either of the next two World Cup downhills (Dec. 16 in France and Jan. 13 in Austria). The focus remains on her favored slalom and giant slalom.
“We’ll just play it by ear,” she said of racing more downhills later in the season (all four of her World Cup downhill starts have come at Lake Louise). “I have a good balance. It’s sort of like dangling candy in front of a baby when I feel like I have a chance to make real waves in speed [events].”
Shiffrin’s stock can rise higher with a strong finish in Sunday’s super-G at Lake Louise (1 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA). Shiffrin can become the seventh woman to notch World Cup wins in every discipline (Vonn has done this).
Shiffrin openly expresses hesitation about racing the fastest and riskiest discipline of downhill.
She flirted with danger early in Saturday’s run, bobbling her outside ski in an area where teammate Breezy Johnson later crashed.
“I took some risk,” Shiffrin said. “I had a pretty close, almost run-in with the fence.”
She recovered to become the first U.S. woman not named Vonn to win a World Cup speed race (downhill or super-G) in more than four years.
In that span, Vonn won 18 speed races.
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Lake Louise Downhill
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — 1:27.55
2. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) — +.13
3. Michelle Gisin (SUI) — +.17
6. Stacey Cook (USA) — +.61
12. Lindsey Vonn (USA) — +.93
23. Jacqueline Wiles (USA) — +1.45
35. Alice McKennis (USA) — +2.02
37. Alice Merryweather (USA) — +2.20
DNF. Breezy Johnson (USA)