ARE, Sweden (March 8, 2017) – Sam Morse (Sugarloaf, ME; U.S. Ski Team C Team/Carrabassett Valley Academy) and Alice Merryweather (Hingham, MA; U.S. Ski Team C Team/Stratton Mountain School) led a U.S. downhill gold-medal sweep at the 2017 FIS Junior World Ski Championships Wednesday. This was the second-straight U.S. downhill gold medal for junior men.
“It’s pretty unreal. This is my fourth year of World Juniors and I’ve always wanted to be on top of the podium,” said Stratton Mountain School grad Alice Merryweather who had a chance to race at the Audi FIS World Cup in Killington, last fall. “To achieve that is so cool. It’s a huge boost to my confidence going into the rest of this series and the rest of this season. It feels good and I want to keep this feeling going.
“It’s awesome to see athletes perform to their abilities when it counts,” said U.S. Alpine Development Director Chip Knight, who grew up ski racing in Stowe, VT. “Kudos to them and to everyone who contributed to making it happen.”
Alice Merryweather (center) smiles after winning the Junior Worlds downhill. (FIS)
In the women’s race – which was run under overcast conditions before the men – Merryweather, who was battling a bit of a cold earlier in the week, rebounded to win by just 0.02 seconds over Switzerland’s Katia Grossmann. Germany’s Kira Weidle was third.
“(Alice) progressed nicely through the training runs, improving each time,” Knight said. “(Tuesday) she had fast splits, but botched one turn. It was great to see her make that adjustment and execute on race day.”
Merryweather now looks forward to the rest of the week at Åre. “It’s pretty unreal,” said Merryweather. “This is my fourth year of World Juniors and I’ve always wanted to be on top of the podium. To achieve that is so cool. It’s a huge boost to my confidence going into the rest of this series and the rest of this season. It feels good and I want to keep this feeling going.”
Galena Wardle (Basalt, CO; U.S. Ski Team C Team/Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club) was 16th; Nina O’Brien (Edwards, CO; U.S. Ski Team D Team/Burke Mountain Academy/Squaw Valley Ski Team) 24th; Rachael DesRochers (Mammoth Lakes, CA; Ski & Snowboard Club Vail) 35th; and Maureen Lebel (Truckee, CA; Mammoth Mountain Ski & Snowboard Club) was 36th.
Sam Morse stands atop the men’s podium at Junior Worlds. (FIS)
Morse edged out Italy’s Alexander Prast by 0.38 for the victory. Austria’s Raphael Haaser was third. River Radamus (Edwards, CO; U.S. Ski Team D Team/Ski & Snowboard Club Vail) finished 10th; George Steffey (Lyme, NH; U.S. Ski Team D Team/Stratton Mountain School) was 23rd; Florian Szwebel (Avon, CO; U.S. Ski Team D Team/Ski & Snowboard Club Vail) was 64th.
Defending Junior World downhill champion Erik Arvidsson (Woodside, CA; U.S. Ski Team C Team/Squaw Valley Ski Team) skied slightly off-line going off the first jump and lost a ski on the landing and skied out, but was not injured. Arvidsson is now looking forward to Thursday’s super G, according to Knight.
Morse, who started bib 30, has been working on his giant slalom skills all season, and tested some different lines in downhill training earlier in the week. His GS skills paid off significantly in the technical sections as the sun broke out for the later starters. In addition, the track ran quite a bit faster on race day than it had been in training.
“The men’s coaches and athletes made an educated guess to pick numbers later in the top 30 because guys had been fast from the 30s in training, and because the wind was expected to die down as the day went on,” noted Knight. “Having the sun break through was an added benefit.”
Morse, who was just off the podium in fourth at last year’s World Juniors in Sochi, was thrilled. “It’s a big step in the career,” he said after the race. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a while. It hasn’t really hit me yet, honestly. It puts a target on your back in the future, but it makes you hungry for that next step. We all dream of going to the World Cup and hopefully this will launch me in that direction.”
The Junior World Ski Championships continue Thursday in Åre, Sweden with men and women’s super G.
Reporting by USSA