ARE, Sweden — The Lindsey Vonn circus had rolled back into town, and that suited Ilka Stuhec just fine.
All the talk at the world championships on Sunday was whether Vonn could mark the last race of her career with a victory in the downhill.
Stuhec ended up spoiling the party.
With Vonn sitting on the leader’s throne and the potential of a glorious finale increasing by the minute, Stuhec produced a virtually flawless run from No. 9 in the field to top her rival and become the first woman to retain the world downhill title since Maria Walliser in 1989.
“She has won everything, won so much, and I was really honored to be there (on the podium) with her for her last time,” the Slovenian skier said of Vonn.
Stuhec missed all of last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during a crash while training on the glacier in Pitztal, Austria.
Stuhec won by 0.23 seconds over Corinne Suter and 0.49 over Vonn, to successfully defend her title from St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 2017.
“From a surprise point of view, this one was a bit bigger,” she said. “Two years ago, I was really winning a lot, having a great season and having a lot of self-belief. This season was a comeback season.”
Amid the commotion surrounding Vonn this week, Stuhec said, “I just want to ski, leave me alone,” and that having fewer distractions would actually help her.
With Vonn gone, Stuhec might be ready to dominate speed racing again.
“There’s probably nobody doing a better tuck on the circuit than she and she is extremely aerodynamic,” said Norwegian skier Ragnhild Mowinckel. “I know how hard she has worked for this. She deserves it.”