Nina Ortlieb loves leap day.
The Austrian skier won the junior world title in super-G four years ago on Feb. 29, and she got her first career victory on the women’s World Cup on Saturday.
Ortlieb edged Federica Brignone of Italy by one hundredth of a second to win a super-G, one week after she earned her first podium result, finishing third in a downhill in Crans Montana.
“This is a dream, of course. This is what I work for every day,” said the Austrian, daughter of 1992 Olympic downhill champion Patrick Ortlieb.
“My summer training went well and I finished fourth in the first downhill this season. That gave me a lot of confidence,” said Ortlieb, adding I “look up to my father but my idol has always been Bode Miller.”
It was the second time this season that Brignone finished 0.01 seconds behind the winner. In December, she trailed Italian teammate Sofia Goggia by the smallest possible margin at a super-G in St.-Moritz.
Brignone extended her lead in the overall standings to 153 points from the absent Mikaela Shiffrin.
Absence of Shiffrin
The American three-time overall champion hasn’t competed for the past five weeks, taking a break from the sport since the death of her father, Jeff Shiffrin.
Corinne Suter lost control of her right pole halfway through her run and was 0.07 seconds behind in third. The Swiss skier remained in the lead of the discipline standings, 19 points ahead of Brignone, with only the season-ending race in Cortina d’Ampezzo remaining.
Last week Suter wrapped up the season title in downhill and she could become the first female skier to win both speed titles in the same season since American standout Lindsey Vonn achieved the feat five years ago.
Petra Vlhova, who got treatment for a knee issue at the beginning of the week, confirmed her progress in the speed disciplines as the Slovakian skier trailed by 0.39 in fourth.
Vlhova is 189 points behind Brignone in the overall standings. She was expected to make up ground on the Italian in next week’s technical races in Ofterschwang, but the slalom and GS in Southern Germany have been cancelled due to a lack of snow and won’t be rescheduled.
Brignone staying focused
Brignone was still reluctant to give too much thought to her improving chance of becoming the first Italian winner of the women’s overall title in the 53-year history of the World Cup.
“I just want to be here for racing in front of my crowd and I am not thinking about the crystal globe,” Brignone said. “For sure it’s on my mind but I will think about it more at the end of the season.”
Saturday’s race took place in the Valle d’Aosta region, which is outside the Northern Italian regions affected by the coronavirus. Italian authorities have banned sporting events in Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna and Liguria until March 1.
However, only a limited number of spectators were allowed at the race and public events, like the prize-giving ceremony and the draw of the starting bibs for Sunday’s Alpine combined race have been cancelled.
There were also rules in place for journalists, who had to keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters when interviewing racers in the finish area. Also, TV and radio reporters had to replace microphone covers after each interview.