Elisabeth Goergl of Austria won the women's downhill at the world championships Sunday, defeating favourites Lindsey Vonn and Maria Riesch to earn her second gold medal of the competition.
"I can't believe it, I was so anxious before the race," said Goergl, who finished the 1.8-mile Kandahar course in 1 minute, 47.24 seconds to beat defending champion Vonn by 0.44 and Riesch by 0.60.
Britt Janyk of Whistler, B.C., finished 15th with a time of one minute, 49.53 seconds. Janyk had to face difficult snow conditions after starting with bib No. 25.
"I went out of the gate and raced hard and I felt confident on the hill. I knew that if I put a strong run down that I could be right in there but unfortunately I don't think my bib number was good," said Janyk, who will be competing in the team event and the giant slalom race next week.
"I didn't get the best bib draw but the track stayed in great shape and I just went in there and I raced hard."
It was the first women's top-level downhill in two years not won by either Vonn or Riesch.
Vonn has been struggling with the aftereffects of hitting her head in a training crash in Austria 11 days ago.
The Olympic downhill champion lost her super-G title Tuesday when she finished seventh in an event won by Goergl, and skipped the slalom part of the super-combined Friday.
"For me, this silver is like gold," Vonn said. "I have been fighting the last couple of days just to be able to race today. I am very proud about this second place. It was the best result possible for me. I could race a bit more like I normally do but it was difficult to go to the limit."
Vonn said she felt well and was cleared to race after passing all the concussion tests before the start.
"But I felt during the race that I was still not 100 percent," she said. "Today it was all about fighting. I've had a lot of injuries and most of the time, it's just about managing and dealing with the pain. … But this injury has taken away my focus. The only thing I can do is nothing and get some rest in a dark room. I don't enjoy that. I wanna be out there fighting."
Goergl, the first Austrian woman to win downhill gold since Michaela Dorfmeister in 2001, said she tried to attack throughout her run.
"I went wide a couple of times but I kept calm," she said. "I am happy that I didn't make a mistake this time."
Goergl became the fourth woman to win downhill and super-G titles at the same world championships. Vonn (2009), Sweden's Anja Paerson (2007) and Switzerland's Maria Walliser (1987) also completed the speed double.
"The super-G gold was not a relief for me, I still felt pressure," she said. "But I think you need to have that feeling to do really well."
Austria has won all three women's events at the worlds after Anna Fenninger took the super-combined title Friday.
Vonn started 20th after pre-race favourites such as Dominique Gisin, Lara Gut, Goergl and Riesch had completed their runs.
The late start was a disadvantage because the snow had been softened by temperatures that didn't drop below zero for several nights.
She was behind from the start and seemed to hold a bit back from her usual attacking style, but kept her racing line perfectly. She hit a bump shortly before finishing but adjusted well.
"At the start, I didn't have the same confidence like I usually have," Vonn said. "Normally I know exactly what I can do in a run, how I can attack, but today I didn't have that. That's why I didn't win."
Vonn paid tribute to Goergl, saying that "Lizzi was just sensational today and she would have been hard to beat anyway."
Julia Mancuso, who won silver in super-G, trailed by 1.06 in sixth place and Laurenne Ross was 10th, giving the U.S. three top-10 finishers in a world championships race for the first time since 2007, when Vonn (then Kildow) took second in the super-G, Mancuso was sixth and Libby Ludlow ninth.
The last time they achieved the feat in downhill was at the 1996 worlds, with Picabo Street taking the title, Hilary Lindh winning bronze and Megan Gerety placing fifth.
Riesch, who has had a fever since Tuesday, lost 0.20 in the first part of the course to Goergl, but kept up with the Austrian's pace before losing speed in the final section.
"This medal makes me the happiest person today," Riesch said. "I won't complain about not being fit — if you are starting in a world championship race, there are no excuses."
The German didn't expect to win bronze "under these circumstances. I know many people were expecting me to win a medal and it was my main goal. Unfortunately I lost too much speed in the final part."
Switzerland's Gut, who hurt her knee in a slalom crash Friday, finished fourth to miss out on a podium place by 0.34. She also took fourth in the super-G.
"It's a bummer. But on Saturday, I was walking on crutches," said Gut, who won downhill silver in '09. "I was not top fit for sure but I will get another chance."
Paerson finished 11th after a disappointing showing.
Paerson, who said before the race she would win the title "if my skis are fast and I don't make a mistake," was the fastest starter going into the middle part of the course.
But the seven-time world champion struggled to find the right line and lost time at every measuring point afterward to finish 1.78 off the lead.
Austria's Andrea Fischbacher, the last skier to win a World Cup downhill before Vonn and Riesch started their domination in Feb. 2009, was 1.62 back in ninth.
Her teammate and super-combined champion, Fenninger, developed a fever Saturday and seemed to lack power. She lost time to the favourites in all sections and was 2.36 off the lead in 17th.