LEUKERBAD, Switzerland — Michela Figini of Switzerland won a treacherous World Cup downhill race Friday by 12-hundredths of a second, holding off another tough challenge by the revived Austrian women's team led by runner-up Sigrid Wolf.
In the first race of the winter in Switzerland, the Swiss women's team posted its third straight victory--all downhills--out of six races so far.
Figini started first and went down the long 2,575-meter course in 1 minute 50.52 seconds for her first win of the season. Wolf, winner of the season's only super-G to date, picked up time on the lower part of the course, which has a 700-meter vertical drop, to finish in 1:50.64.
Switzerland's Brigitte Oertli placed third, 39-hundredths of a second behind Figini, who also posted the best intermediate times.
Fourth place went to Elisabeth Kirchler of Austria in 1:50.94 and fifth to Laurie Graham of Canada, a veteran in her ninth World Cup season, who was timed in 1:51.44.
"This gives me joy and repays all the efforts" to prepare for the season, said Figini, 21, who placed second and ninth in two downhills at Val d'Isere, France, last week.
"I think everybody made mistakes on this course. It was a difficult run, and I had to fight so hard not to fall that I can't even remember where I made mine," she said.
Figini crashed coming into the finish area but emerged unscathed.
Maria Walliser, world downhill champion and winner of the last two overall World Cups, finished sixth, after a scary crash in final practice Thursday, her first in five years.
She said she felt head and knee pains in the morning but not during the race.
"The result gives me confidence that I can soon be back at the very top," the 24-year-old Swiss said. "It went fine. I would have liked to risk a little more but I had a barrier in my mind after the crash."
Wolf's second place lifted her into the overall lead in the World Cup standings with 57 points. Figini moved into second place with 52. Both passed Mateja Svet of Yugoslavia, who does not ski downhills, with 40.
Figini took the lead in the downhill standings with her 52 points.
Chantal Bournissen, surprise winner of the second Val d'Isere downhill last Saturday, came in 29th, 3.24 seconds behind Figini.
Pam Fletcher was the top American, finishing 17th, slightly more than two seconds behind the winner. U.S. teammates Tori Pillinger and Adele Allender were 24th and 39th, respectively.