The hit-and-miss wind gusts played a cruel game of red light, green light with racers during Saturday’s downhill.
One skier would be allowed to navigate the winding course without a breeze; the next was slapped in the face
and knocked out of her tuck around every turn.
As is the case with any ski race, it took a fine blend of luck and skill to win on this day. Thirty-year-old Italian Daniela
Merighetti had been building skill and apparently saving luck through her 12-year World Cup career for just such
Perhaps Merighetti’s lucky charm was the broken thumb she had tucked in her left glove (broken the week before
in the Bad Kleinkirchheim super G) or maybe it was the thousands of rowdy fans crossing all their fingers to see the
first Italian downhill winner in Cortina in 1 1 years. It could have been the magic of the No. 13 bib drawn the night
before on Friday the 13th.
Whatever it was, it worked. Merighetti was allowed to ski a windless run and ripped through the Tofane Scuss carrying top speed to finish nearly a half second ahead of any of the first 12 racers. Her time held up as wind gusts
bounced most of the top-ranked racers around the course, and the local fans cheered wildly with each red number
to appear on the time board.
“The feeling of winning a World Cup here is just unbelievable,” said a broadly smiling Merighetti after the race.
“There are no words for it. Just unbelievable. I had big support from all my family. They gave me everything without
asking for anything back.”
Since making her World Cup debut in 2000, Merighetti had started 166 Cup races but never finished higher than
second. She hadn’t even been on the podium since her second-place finish in an Are GS in 2003. She looked very
much at home on the course where she had raced 18 previous World Cup races, and put down a run that ended
up nearly a quarter of a second faster than downhill champ Lindsey Vonn and 0.40 seconds faster than defending
overall titleholder Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany.
“It’s a beautiful podium,” said Merighetti, “between two queens like Vonn and Riesch.”
It had been 11 years since an Italian woman (Isolde Kostner in 2001) had won the Cortina downhill, with most of
that gap filled by Vonn and retired Austrian great Renate Goetschl. The celebration was very Italian, and began with
Merighetti giving a kiss to 91-year-old Olympic journalist Rolly Marchi, who was the announcer at the 1956 Olympic
Winter Games in Cortina.
Vonn, the winner of the first two downhills of the season, wasn’t complaining about her spot on the second step
after an uncharacteristically slow pair of races seven days before in Bad Kleinkirchheim, where she finished fourth
in the downhill and marked a five-year record low in the super G in 18th place while suffering from a stomach illness. She was one of the wind’s unlucky victims.
“The problem at the start was that the wind was swirling and I couldn’t even see the first gate, so I was kind of
laughing to myself,” said Vonn. “Second place is a really solid result given the conditions.”
It was a comeback race for Hoefl-Riesch, too. She had missed the Bad Kleinkirchheim races with the flu, and this
Daniela Merighetti rips
to her first career World
Cup win on home snow in
bounced back from a week
off with illness to earn
two top-three results in