1st DH: Veysonnaz, Switzerland
December 18, 1998
"The racing conditions were very demanding and I was not too aggressive," Gerg explained after her win. "I first tried to follow a clean line and to come safe at the arrival. It's a great and a wonderful surprise."
The Olympic slalom champion, who has never before won a downhill event, beat Sweden's Pernilla Wiberg by 42/100 and Italy's Bibiana Perez by half a second.
Overall World Cup leader Alexandra Meissnitzer came in 4th after a more cautious run while the favorite, teammate Renate Goetschl, didn't crack the top-10. Goetschl made a major mistake in the last big left turn before the finish line and almost crashed off the course. She finished 14th just behind Italy's Isolde Kostner. This is the first race this season with no Austrians on the podium.
Switzerland's Corinne Rey-Bellet, who was fastest in the last training run, crashed in the middle of the course and while disqualified, wasn't injured.
German Martina Ertl placed a far 16th with knee pain that prevented her from being as determined as usual. Croatia's Janica Kostelic was also far back in 28th, losing by over three seconds.
Three US skiers scored points: Megan Gerety was 19th, Kathleen Monahan 22nd and Caroline Lalive 30th.
Hard snow and tough turns made the course conditions extremely rough. The racers had a hard time taking big risks because of the flat light. Since the whole "Bear Run" course was in shadow, the skiers couldn't see the numerous ruts littering the downhill course.
This was the first German success this season and the 7th for Hilde Gerg on the World Cup tour. A super-G specialist, Gerg clinched the World Cup super-G title in 1997 before her Olympic success in Nagano. This first downhill win is a major achievement in her career aside from two second places, Hilde hasn't previously excelled in downhill. In fact, she was not even aiming for a top-3 here.
Pernilla Wiberg, who won the silver medal in downhill in Nagano, was pleased with 2nd place. The 1997 Overall World Cup winner lost a lot of time at the top of the course but was able to pick it up at the bottom.
"After my disappointing races at Lake Louise, this is quite a nice comeback," Wiberg said. "It was a hard race, but the difficult conditions suit my technique. My season start has been fine so far, now I am looking ahead for my first success. I plan to be back at the top in January."
It was also a nice comeback for Italy's Bibiana Perez, who collected several top-3 places in 1993 and 1994. "This is my best result ever in downhill and I'm very proud to have done so well on such a hard course," Perez said. "It was a real fight from the top to bottom. This run is so long and so rough. You have to battle all the time to control your skis."
Mountain Zone European Correspondent
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