Eight years after her first and only podium, Daniela Merighetti earned her maiden World Cup victory in a women’s downhill yesterday.
The 30-year-old Italian, one of the most popular skiers on the circuit, clocked 1 minute, 33.17 seconds to beat the best two skiers of her generation.
Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn was second, 0.21 seconds behind, ahead of World Cup champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who finished a further 0.19 off the pace.
Merighetti’s only World Cup podium to date was a second place in a giant slalom in Are, Sweden, in 2003.
She was probably helped in Cortina by weather conditions, as occasional gusts of wind harmed the performances of most of her rivals.
“I always believed I would do it, but now it’s hard to realize, especially to win ahead of Lindsey,” said Merighetti, cheered in the finish area by all the other skiers. “This was the race I had written down as my main goal this season. It’s a perfect course for me. I just tried to be relaxed and only think about speed.”
Behind her, the solid runs by Vonn and Hoefl-Riesch were still morale boosters for both.
Hampered by a stomach bug in recent weeks, the US’ Vonn faltered badly in Bad Kleinkircheim, Austria, last weekend, finishing outside the top 15 in a Super-G.
“It’s a disappointment. I had been beaten here last year and I was out for revenge, but I did the best I could given the conditions and I’m very happy for Daniela,” Vonn said.
She still comfortably tops the World Cup overall standings from Austria’s Marlies Schild.
Hoefl-Riesch, who had won on the same piste last year, waved in celebration when she crossed the line as this was her first downhill podium this season after flu forced her to rest last weekend.
“Given my forced break last week, this is mission accomplished,” she said.
The women’s program continues today in the Italian resort with a Super-G, a race Vonn won a year ago.