SCHLADMING, Austria -- France’s Marion Rolland picked the biggest race of the season to post her first career victory. For the U.S. team, Sunday’s race at the world championships was the first downhill this season without an American on the podium.
Sure, Lindsey Vonn’s absence was a major factor, but three of the four Americans who raced had also posted podium results in downhill this season. And the other American was none other than Julia Mancuso, the most decorated female U.S. skier in history at major championships with eight medals, who finished fifth.
"This team is always striving for podiums so we’re a little disappointed," U.S. speed coach Chip White said. "This was one day and all the cards didn’t fall the way we wanted them to but it’s not the end of the world. We still have a lot of the season left. We’re still contenders for a globe in downhill and still trying to maintain the status of best downhill team in the world."
Rolland, who is yet to win a World Cup race after 15 top-10 finishes in downhill, charged down the icy and bumpy 1.9-mileStreicher course in 1 minute, 50.00 seconds.
Nadia Fanchini of Italy finished 0.16 behind to take the silver medal and put years of injury misery behind her, and Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, who won the super-combined title Friday, was 0.70 back in third.
The 30-year-old Rolland was sidelined with injuries several times during her career, and saw the world title as a reward for fighting back.
"This is life, you have to believe to reach your goals one day," said Rolland, who fell four seconds into her run in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics downhill. "I wanted this medal today."
Mancuso may have finished on the podium if she hadn’t skied a bit wide on a turn midway down.
"I got a little knocked by the terrain," said Mancuso, who has struggled with equipment and ski technician changes this season. "I don’t have 100 percent confidence yet in downhill. I ski with a really solid position but I don’t have the next [gear] to want to go faster and want to try and win. ... I still seem to hold back a little."