CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy –
The native of Owen Sound, Ont., finished second in a women’s downhill Friday, her first-ever podium finish and career-best result. Yurkiw was fourth in a downhill event at Lake Louise, Alta., on Dec. 6 and was 13th two weeks later at Val d’Isere, France.
Yurkiw recorded her fifth top-10 World Cup finish since ’07.
What’s more, Yurkiw has been paying her own way.
She lost her spot on the Canadian ski team for the 2013-14 season, so Yurkiw raised money via sponsorships and raced solo to qualify for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
She regained her place on the national team as the lone downhiller for this season, but turned down financial support from Alpine Canada.
“It’s expensive,” Yurkiw said. “But it’s working.”
Italian Elena Fanchini finished first with a flawless run amid thick fog, low visibility and falling snow. She won the race with a time of one minute, 9.53 seconds, 0.15 seconds ahead of Yurkiw.
Her second career World Cup win came nine seasons after her first victory.
Fanchini found inspiration by watching a video of fellow Italian Isolde Kostner, who won five races here between 1996 and 2001.
“We saw how she negotiated all of the secret points,” Fanchini said.
German Viktoria Rebensburg, the 2010 Olympic giant slalom champion, was third, 0.31 back.
American Linday Vonn, chasing a record-tying 62nd career World Cup win, was 10th.
“I was surprised at how foggy it was,” Vonn said. “I have no regrets.
“I skied the best that I could and I just wasn’t quite fast enough today. But the pressure will be there until I can break the record. I just have to stay focused on the skiing and that’s what’s going to win me races.”
Still, Vonn can match Annemarie Moser-Proell’s record in another downhill Saturday or in a super-G on Sunday.
Even without the record, it was a special day for Vonn, who had both her mother and father on hand to watch her race for the first time since the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
Vonn’s step mom, step dad and younger sister Laura Kildow were also in attendance, though boyfriend Tiger Woods did not make the trip.
“It’s pretty crazy, a lot of Kildows running around,” said Vonn, who was named Lindsey Kildow before marrying fellow skier Thomas Vonn, who she has since divorced.
While she was married, Vonn was estranged from her father, but they have since repaired their relationship.
Alan Kildow acknowledged that he came over to see the record.
“It’s a lot of World Cup races to win. So it’s very special when you think about it over the years how many victories. It would be a milestone,” Vonn’s father told The Associated Press. “We’ll see. As my old coach Erich Sailer said, ‘Don’t write your victory speeches in the starting gate.'”
Vonn and most of the other favourites struggled due to the conditions, which prompted organizers to cut off the opening 30 seconds of the course, and which worsened as the race wore on.
Heavier snowfall was forecast beginning later Friday, which could affect the schedule.
“Hopefully tomorrow the weather is better and we can start from the very top, because it’s such a fun downhill,” said Vonn, who led the only training session Thursday and has seven career wins in Cortina. “It’s not the same without the top.”
Friday’s race was originally scheduled for Bad Kleinkircheim last weekend, but was postponed due to difficult weather conditions in the Austrian resort.
Vonn’s family moved from Minnesota to Colorado when she was 11 to help her pursue her skiing dreams.
“Well we knew she was good — maybe not this good,” Alan Kildow, a former racer himself, said. “We knew she was good starting at about 9, 10 or 11 years old. But this good, you really can’t foresee.”
The top American on Friday was Laurenne Ross of Bend, Oregon, who finished fourth, missing the podium by just 0.03 seconds.
Fanchini’s only previous win was a downhill in Lake Louise in Dec. 2005. She also won a silver in downhill at the 2005 world championships in Bormio.
But Fanchini, like her twin sister and fellow racer Nadia, has been slowed by six knee surgeries.
“Sometimes we can’t walk after races but we never give up,” Fanchini said.
An expert glider, Fanchini was the only skier to contend after the early starters, with the No. 14 bib.
Yurkiw started No. 3, Rebensburg had No. 5 and Ross was No. 1.
Vonn, No. 16, already trailed Fanchini by 0.41 at the first checkpoint, and finished 0.88 behind.
“Just sometimes it happens that way and the weather changes,” Vonn said. “It’s not always fair.”
Among the other top favourites, Anna Fenninger finished fifth, Julia Mancuso was eighth, Elisabeth Goergl 11th and overall World Cup leader Tina Maze 13th.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images