Nicole Schmidhofer

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Mikaela Shiffrin just misses Lake Louise downhill podium

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Two days ago, Austrian racer Nicole Schmidhofer had no World Cup wins.

Now, she can’t lose.

Schmidhofer captured a second straight downhill Saturday with an even faster run. She finished in 1 minute, 47.68 seconds to hold off teammate Cornelia Huetter by 0.44 seconds.

Michelle Gisin of Switzerland was third, 0.47 seconds back, while two-time overall World Cup winner Mikaela Shiffrin wound up fourth.

“It’s unbelievable for me,” the 29-year-old Schmidhofer said. “I’m excited and a little bit surprised that I started the season so great.”

Schmidhofer was nearly a half-second faster than she was the day before. It didn’t always feel that way on the course, she said.

“Yesterday was dark and more bumpy. Today, too easy — the line was too easy and not so fast,” she explained. “It was fast enough.”

After finishing ninth Friday, Shiffrin moved up to fourth. Shiffrin won a World Cup downhill at the venue a season ago. She’s still trying to get up to speed in the downhill.

“After last year, I know how it’s supposed to feel,” Shiffrin said. “That doesn’t mean that I can do it every time, but at least I know how it’s supposed to feel.

“Today’s race versus yesterday’s race, it was a lot closer to that feeling of attacking and letting my skis run. That doesn’t always guarantee a win or even a podium, but it does guarantee that I’m making progress and getting better on my speed skis.”

Lindsey Vonn skipped the speed races to recover from a training crash that injured her knee. Although she planned to retire after the season, Vonn recently posted that she intends to race at Lake Louise next season. It’s her favorite venue.

Before this weekend, Schmidhofer’s best World Cup finish was second in a super-G race on Jan. 20, 2013, in Italy. She won the super-G at the 2017 World Championships.

“I’m really happy,” she said.

Huetter studied a video of Schmidhofer’s run from Friday and tried to replicate it.

“I was a little bit too late in the first gate,” Huetter said. “It took the speed with me. The rest of the track was really good. I skied much better than yesterday.”

Gisin was on the podium once again. She was second the day before.

“I’m so excited and I hope I can take the flow with me and keep going,” Gisin said.

The speed races at Lake Louise close with a super-G on Sunday.

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Nicole Schmidhofer gets first World Cup win at Lake Louise; Mikaela Shiffrin 9th

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Austrian Nicole Schmidhofer earned her first World Cup win, while Mikaela Shiffrin placed ninth in her first downhill in 10 months at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Schmidhofer, 29, prevailed by .15 over Swiss Michelle Gisin. German Kira Weidle rounded out an unlikely podium with last season’s top two downhillers out injured (Sofia Goggia and Lindsey Vonn). Full results are here.

Schmidhofer, the 2017 World champion in super-G, made four podiums in her first 128 World Cup starts dating to 2007 coming into Lake Louise. Her best Olympic finish was 12th in the PyeongChang downhill.

Gisin, like Schmidhofer, had her greatest success at major championships, taking super combined gold in PyeongChang and silver at the 2017 Worlds. The younger sister of 2014 Olympic downhill gold medalist Dominique Gisin matched her best World Cup result with her fourth career runner-up.

The 22-year-old Weidle’s best World Cup finish before Friday was eighth.

Shiffrin, who won in Lake Louise a year ago in her fourth World Cup downhill start, tempered expectations in her least comfortable discipline because she’s had one or two days of downhill training in the last six months.

She improved from 21st place to eighth to fourth in training runs the previous three days before finishing 1.23 seconds behind Schmidhofer on Friday.

The women race another downhill Saturday and a super-G on Sunday. A full broadcast schedule is here.

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Surprise winner as Lindsey Vonn skis out of world championships super-G

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Lindsey Vonn‘s first race of the world championships lasted about 40 seconds, as she nearly lost a ski pole, and ended with a DNF.

Vonn, showing she’s still recovering from breaking her right upper arm in November, struggled to hold onto her right ski pole early in her super-G run and skied off course, but didn’t crash, in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Tuesday.

She was .02 behind Austrian winner Nicole Schmidhofer at her last split time before skiing out.

“I was definitely distracted for about five gates there, I couldn’t get my pole back,” Vonn said on NBCSN, adding that she’ll duct tape her hand to her pole for her final two races this week. “I didn’t know whether I should just drop it or keep trying to get it, but I kind of had a little bit of a grip on it.”

Schmidhofer was the surprise gold medalist by .33 over Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, who both earned their first Olympic or world medals. Pre-race favorite Lara Gut of Switzerland took bronze, .36 behind.

MORE: Full Results | Race Replay

Vonn, who bagged super-G bronze at the 2010 Olympics and 2015 Worlds, isn’t 100 percent back from breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash. She called it the most painful injury of her career and said Sunday that her right hand movement was so limited that she couldn’t put her hair in a ponytail.

“I was attacking, and at world championships only a medal counts,” Vonn, who returned to race three weeks ago, said on NBCSN. “I’m still in a good mood, I’m still smiling, because I attacked.”

Vonn will next compete in the super combined on Friday, but her best medal shot is in the downhill on Sunday. Vonn said she’s had about four days of super-G training since September, with more recent experience in downhill in that time, including a World Cup win Jan. 21.

Austrian Anna Veith, the reigning Olympic and world super-G champion, also failed to finish Tuesday, skiing out about one minute into her run after being .17 back at her last split time. Veith is coming back from tearing the ACL and patellar tendon in her right knee in an Oct. 21, 2015 crash.

Winner Schmidhofer and silver medalist Weirather share a bit of history. At the 2007 World Junior Championships, they also went one-two in the super-G.

Both Schmidhofer and Weirather were at the Sochi Olympics, but neither raced.

Schmidhofer was passed over for Olympic downhill and super-G selections after training runs, as nations can enter no more than four racers per event and Austria’s team is very deep. Schmidhofer also made the Vancouver Olympic team and failed to finish her only race there. The 27-year-old has never won a World Cup race in 106 starts, but owns two podium finishes.

Weirather, the daughter of Olympic and world champion ski racers, crashed in a Sochi Olympic downhill training run, suffering a right knee injury that ended her season. She tore her right ACL three times but has somehow won six World Cup races.

Gut has won three of the four World Cup super-Gs this season, and is Switzerland’s biggest skiing star as the reigning World Cup overall champion. She came to worlds with five previous Olympic or world championships medals, but none of them gold. The super-G was her best shot, but she’s also a medal threat in the super combined, downhill and giant slalom.

“I couldn’t really ski the way I wanted,” Gut said. “I had a little bit of a fight on the slope.”

The World Championships continue with the men’s super-G on Wednesday (6 a.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

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