Johnson Matches Season-Best, Fifth in Crans-Montana Downhill
Breezy Johnson—who returned to competition from back-to-back knee injuries in January—matched her season-best from Bansko with a fifth-place on Friday in the first of two downhills in Crans-Montana, Switzerland to lead three Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team athletes into the top 30.
For the second-straight day, the sun was shining down on the track, and though it was warm during the race, the temperatures dropped enough on Thursday night for the snow to firm up and create a surface that was a touch faster than in Thursday's downhill training run. The Swiss women really put on a show for the crowd, with Lara Gut grabbing her first downhill victory since January 2017 by a massive .80 margin, followed by Corrine Suter in second, and Austria's Stephanie Venier in third, .92 seconds back.
Coming down bib four, Breezy was building time the entire way down and had a .33-second advantage before making a costly mistake at the bottom, that would put her in second behind Slovakia's Petra Vlhova by just 18 hundredths of a second. Though Petra was knocked off the podium, Friday's fourth-place result was her career-best downhill finish and earned her valuable points towards the overall title chase.
Breezy, who returned in January from back-to-back knee injuries, grabbed two top-10 results in Bansko Bulgaria—a fifth and a 10th—and was happy to have earned a matching season-best result in Crans-Montana on a track that she's never skied before. All of the blood, sweat, and tears in the last 18 months has paid off for Breezy.
"I spent so long after my first injury, so excited to be back and I couldn't wait to be back, I started skiing and it was so nice but then I got injured again and I was devastated," reflected Breezy. "All I could think about was getting back to racing. Skiing was great, training was great, but race day is my favorite day. So, I am just SO grateful to be back, and I'm trying to take advantage of every moment and not let anything slip through my fingers."
"I was in the start this morning and I was like, 'You have been through too much sh*t to let this get to you," she continued. "I'm trying to enjoy this as much as possible. I've just been trying to ski the way that I have been dreaming about skiing for forever. I'm so blessed with the fact that my body is in line with what I want to do mentally, and that is so rare...so I'm so grateful to all of my therapists, and my strength coach, and both of my surgeons."
A bobble before the last split cost Breezy her first podium, but she's eager for a second opportunity on Saturday. "I came out of the start, and I went to the outside gate a little bit right at the top and was like, 'well, I can still arc this but it's not the fastest line, obviously,' and then I just tried to send it from there and ski as well as I could," she said. "I felt like I skied pretty well and then I came into the bottom pitch and the snow was a little peely down there...I didn't quite get the direction that I needed coming out of the triple, coming on to the last face, and then the snow just kind of peeled away from me and my skis were doing some weird things—I don't know if my tips crossed—definitely felt pretty strange. I was so backseat, and I told myself, 'you have to make that gate—you've been through too much to lose it now!'"
Alice McKennis grabbed some more points, finishing in 24th, while Alice Merryweather was 29th. Jackie Wiles got late and pulled low, then missed a gate. She DNFed but she is OK and skied down.
Despite sitting the last six races out (two downhills, two super-Gs, a giant slalom, and a slalom), Mikaela continues to hold the lead in the overall standings, by 77 points over Italy’s Federica Brignone (who was seventh in Friday's downhill) and 104 points ahead of Petra Vlhova. In the downhill standings, Corrine leads the way with 397 points, followed by the Czech Republic's Ester Ledecka with 277, Federica with 270, and Mikaela with 256. At this point, the current overall leader Mikaela's return to Europe and return to competition is unknown.
Friday's downhill was rescheduled from the Rosa Khutor (Sochi), Russia canceled downhill. Up next is another downhill on Saturday, followed by an alpine combined—with one run of super-G and one run of slalom—on Sunday.
Sunday, Feb. 23
12:30 a.m. - Women’s downhill, Crans-Montana, SUI - NBCSN*
4:15 a.m. - Women’s combined super-G, Crans-Montana, SUI - Olympic Channel.com, NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. - Women’s combined slalom, Crans-Montana, SUI- Olympic Channel, Olympic Channel.com, NBC Sports Gold
Monday, Feb. 24
1:00 a.m. - Women’s combined, Crans-Montana, SUI - NBCSN*
Note: All televised events to stream across NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app, OlympicChannel.com, and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA app.
Exclusive commercial-free coverage will be available for subscribers of the NBC Sports Gold Pass, available here: https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/snow.