No longer tuning skis, Stuhec’s mom can enjoy the wins more
SELVA DI VAL GARDENA, Italy — Now that she’s no longer preparing her daughter’s skis, Darja Crnko gets to spend more time on the hill admiring Ilka Stuhec.
And there’s been plenty to admire recently.
Stuhec overcame a messy run to win a World Cup super-G on Wednesday and sweep a series of two speed races on the Saslong course.
Following her downhill victory from Tuesday, Stuhec finished a slim 0.05 seconds ahead of Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein and Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria, who tied for second.
Stuhec’s run was far from perfect. She lost her balance for an instant near the start then ventured way out wide midway down, hitting a gate as she checked her skis to make it back into the racing line.
“I focused on the start a lot and then I leaned too much to the left and almost fell over,” Stuhec said. “Then the mistake happened but I was just like, ‘Don’t panic and keep pushing the skis until the finish.’ So I was surprised when I saw that I was fastest.”
With Zan Kranjec winning a men’s giant slalom in Saalbach, Austria, less than two hours after Stuhec’s victory, it was a rare single-day double for Slovenia.
Stuhec missed all of last season — including the Pyeongchang Olympics — after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during a crash while training on the glacier in Pitztal, Austria. The season before, Stuhec won the gold medal at the world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and captured the season-long World Cup downhill title.
When she began training seriously again after her injury, Stuhec hired Ales Sopotnik, who was formerly with the U.S. team, to tune her Stoeckli skis.
Mom’s waxing was top notch — as evidenced by her seven wins in 2016-17 — but Stuhec felt a change was in order.
“We all saw that she’s getting tired because this is a really hard job as a technician. And she’s also not the youngest anymore,” Stuhec said. “I didn’t want her to really run out of all the energy she had. She gave it everything she could and luckily Ales said yes. It’s nice that my mom can enjoy the other part of the World Cup that she never saw.”
Indeed, mom was up there with Stuhec during the podium celebrations this week.
It was the ninth World Cup win of Stuhec’s career and her third in super-G.
Jasmine Flury of Switzerland missed the podium by one hundredth of a second in fourth. Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway finished fifth.
Mikaela Shiffrin retained her overall World Cup lead despite sitting out these races to rest up for a big block of upcoming technical races — her specialty. The American leads Schmidhofer by 330 points.
Lindsey Vonn was also missing, with the all-time women’s wins leader expected back from injury next month.
Shiffrin is also still on top of the super-G standings, having won the opening two races of the season. She leads Mowinckel by 25 points.
Olympic super-G champion Ester Ledecka finished 11th for the best World Cup super-G result of her career. Ledecka, who also won the parallel giant slalom in snowboarding at the Pyeongchang Games, won a snowboard World Cup event on Saturday.
The races were originally scheduled for Val d’Isere, France, last weekend but were moved because of a lack of snow in the French resort.
Weirather has won the season-long super-G title the past two seasons.
“The snow was really nice therefore we really had to push hard,” Weirather said. “It was kind of easy, which makes it hard to be fast.”
It’s the first time that the Saslong course hosted women’s World Cup races, despite being a classic stop on the men’s circuit for a half-century.
“I wish we could come back here more often,” Weirather said, “and maybe do the downhill with a little bit more difficult course.”
Added Stuhec with a smile: “I totally agree. I love it here.”
Mom was smiling, too.