Nicole Schmidhofer

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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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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