French Rolland wins downhill title

French Rolland wins downhill title

SCHLADMING, Austria - The Associated Press
French Rolland wins downhill title

Winner Marion Rolland celebrates with her gold medal after women’s downhill event of the 2013 Ski World Championships in Schladming, Austria.

Marion Rolland of France beat all the favorites to win the world downhill title on Sunday, mastering an icy course that left most of her rivals struggling to find the right race line.

Rolland, who has yet to win a World Cup race, earned her first medal at a major championship after charging down the 3.05-kilometer (1.9-mile) Streicher course in 1 minute, 50.00 seconds.

Nadia Fanchini of Italy trailed Rolland by 0.16 in second. Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, who won the super-combined title Friday, came 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. I told myself before the start, ’Go fast, then you’ll get it.’”

France’s third medal

Going fast is exactly what Rolland did when she started as the final racer of the elite group. She beat then-leader Fanchini at every intermediate time.

Rolland earned France’s third medal of the worlds, after silver for Gauthier de Tessieres in the men’s super-G and bronze for David Poisson in the downhill. She earned her two career World Cup podiums on the same course during the World Cup finals in Schladming last year.

Fanchini, who won bronze in downhill at the 2009 worlds, was the second starter. She skied the turning middle part better than all the favorites and led the race until Rolland wearing bib No. 22 came down.

Fanchini won bronze in downhill at the 2009 worlds in Val d’Isere, France, but then injured both her knees in a crash two weeks before the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Then as she was still working her way back, she tore the ACL in her left knee again ahead of the World Cup race in Cortina d’Ampezzo in Jan. 2011.

Five straight world titles

She only began training again after last season and at one point it seemed like she would be confined to giant slalom because her injuries wouldn’t allow her to race the speed events.Former overall champion Hoefl-Riesch, who won just one race on the World Cup circuit this season, has now made her second podium this week.

Stefanie Moser, the third starter, flew into the safety netting while racing at 110 kph (68 mph). The Austrian’s right ski came off after the binding broke on one of the icy bumps. She got up quickly and appeared unhurt. Dominique Gisin of Switzerland also avoided injury after a nasty crash that also left her in the netting.

With five straight World Cup titles, the 2010 Olympic champion has dominated women’s downhill racing. Vonn won gold at the 2009 worlds and silver in 2007 and 2011, and three of five downhill events this season.