Sverige Nationalarenan, Åre – Day 3 – Downhill action took centre stage. After an early dusting of snow, the sun poked through a high layer of cloud, but it was nearly perfect race conditions to host the ladies followed by the men.
For the first time in recent memory, the World Junior have a challenging downhill, as the site used is the men’s World Championship downhill from 2007, just from a lower start. The organizers had previewed the race to have ‘good air’ and they followed through with numerous jumps on a technically challenging slope – but every jump was well designed to ensure excitement and a good test. The last World Juniors downhill that used a World Cup track was in 2010 at Crans Montana (SUI).
It was a banner day for the US Ski Team, as Alice Merryweather (Stratton Mt.), attending her fourth straight World Junior championship became the first US female athlete in 15 years to capture gold. Merryweather nipped Katja Grossman of Switzerland by .02 with World Cup skier Kira Weidle of Germany taking bronze.
On the Canadian front, Stefanie Fleckenstein (Whistler Mt.) placed 30th and Antonia Wearmouth was DNF.
Not to be outdone by the US ladies, Sam Morse (Carrabassett Valley), whose coaches had the first choice of number in the draw, started #30. But Morse used the last spot in the top 30 effectively to take gold. Europa cup skier Alex Prabst of Italy was .38 behind with Raphel Haaser (brother to rising World Cup star Ricarda) led an attack from the back by capturing bronze from start position #50.
Jack Crawford (Whistler Mt.) was top Canadian in 4th, narrowly missing the podium by .11. Jeffrey Read (Banff Alpine Racers) placed 12th in this closely-packed field. Sam Mulligan (Grouse Mt. Tyee) tied for 28th; Riley Seger (Whistler Mt.) 41st; Cameron Alexander (Whistler Mt.) 44th; and Simon Fournier (Mt. Tremblant) 47th.
Racing continues tomorrow with super G. The men start at 9:30, followed by the ladies at 11:00.