Slow starter: Siebenhofer picking up speed with Cortina double

Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy) (AFP) –


Ramona Siebenhofer became the first skier to complete a downhill double in the Italian resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo on Saturday, claiming her first World Cup victories at the ripe old age of 27.

"This weekend has changed my life, I had been chasing victory for so long and now I've actually got two," said a delighted Siebenhofer who led an Austrian 1-2 on Saturday ahead of Nicole Schmidhofer.

US star Lindsey Vonn, 34, who had racked up over 40 World Cup wins by the time she was Siebenhofer's age, was a modest 15th on Friday and ninth Saturday on her return from a knee injury.

Siebenhofer broke through having arrived in the Italian Dolomites with just two third-place podium finishes, in Lake Louise in 2015 and Val Gardena last month.

"Today's win is even more amazing for me. It was almost a surprise yesterday but everything was a lot harder today," she said.

"Because it was my first victory yesterday there were many emotions. I tried to focus on the race, but I couldn't sleep.

"There wasno big party, but it was enormous. I couldn't answer all the messages. At 11 o'clock I turned off my mobile phone and tried to sleep."

Siebenhofer finished four hundredths of a second ahead of Schmidhofer, who also won a downhill double in Lake Louise this season.

"The course really suits me, it's an amazing landscape and when you go down you're getting faster and faster," said Siebenhofer, who revealed that her passion for skiing had come late.

"I started skiing when I was three years old. My uncle was training me. It was not a big dream when I was a child.

"At 15 or 16 I saw I could win races and this dream got bigger and bigger."

Most of the Austrian skiers come from the southern region in the eastern Alps.

"Maybe it's the air," joked Siebenhofer who will again compete in Sunday's final race in Cortina, the Super-G, which will be the 100th in the resort's race history since 1969.

Double defending World Cup overall champion Mikaela Shiffrin is the favourite, with Vonn also targeting a 13th career win in Cortina.

"My best result in the Super-G is fourth, maybe I can make the podium," said the Austrian.

"But with two wins what more can I do? I'm happy."