Austria's Cornelia Huetter holds the women's World Cup downhill discipline...

Austria's Cornelia Huetter holds the women's World Cup downhill discipline trophy after completing an alpine ski women's World Cup downhill, in Saalbach, Austria, Saturday, March 23, 2024. Credit: AP/Alessandro Trovati

SAALBACH-HINTERGLEMM, Austria — In a surprising finale of the women’s World Cup season, Cornelia Huetter won the downhill race Saturday to clinch her first-ever title and deny Lara Gut-Behrami her fourth this week.

It was only Huetter’s second World Cup downhill win and came more than six years after the Austrian's first, at Lake Louise in December 2017.

“I’m really speechless,” the 31-year-old Huetter said. “It’s amazing to have a home race with this ending, I never can imagine it.”

Huetter had started Saturday’s race fourth in the discipline standings, behind Austrian teammate Stephanie Venier, the injured Sofia Goggia and Gut-Behrami, who needed to finish ninth or better to protect her lead in the standings.

Huetter was 12th out the starting gate and after she soared into the lead — on home snow in Saalbach, Austria — all eyes turned to Gut-Behrami.

Having already won the overall, giant slalom and super-G titles over the past week at the World Cup finals, Gut-Behrami was expected to become the fourth female skier to win four classifications in one season, after Lindsey Vonn, Tina Maze and, most recently, Mikaela Shiffrin achieved the feat.

However, the Swiss standout was perhaps too cautious and ended up crossing the line in 11th, 1.89 seconds behind Huetter, who was immediately surrounded by her jubilant teammates.

Austria's Cornelia Huetter holds the women's World Cup downhill discipline...

Austria's Cornelia Huetter holds the women's World Cup downhill discipline trophy after completing an alpine ski women's World Cup downhill, in Saalbach, Austria, Saturday, March 23, 2024. Credit: AP/Alessandro Trovati

It still wasn’t over as Huetter then faced an anxious wait to make sure none of the remaining skiers were faster as that would have denied her the 100 points for the win that she needed to beat Gut-Behrami to the crystal globe trophy.

Ilka Stuhec and Nicol Delago went nerve-crushingly close — starting 17th and 18th respectively — and Huetter had her head in her hands after Stuhec — a two-time world champion in downhill — finished just 0.17 seconds behind her. Delago was third, 0.49 behind Huetter.

“This morning I woke up — and I slept so bad — and I woke up and I thought, ‘Give your best, it’s the last chance today for this season,’ and I did it,” Huetter said.

Gut-Behrami dropped to 17th and out of the points, finishing 28 points behind Huetter. Goggia was third in the standings despite having to end her season at the beginning of February after breaking two bones in her right leg in a training crash.

Austria's Cornelia Huetter gets to the finish area after completing...

Austria's Cornelia Huetter gets to the finish area after completing an alpine ski women's World Cup downhill, in Saalbach, Austria, Saturday, March 23, 2024. Credit: AP/Alessandro Trovati

“Today Cornelia was clearly better,” a nevertheless smiling Gut-Behrami told Italian television RAI. “At the end of the day to win a World Cup you have to be the best during the season and be able to adapt to all types of snow. I struggled with that today and lost the cup.

“But as always, there’s nothing pre-written, nothing that has to happen. You have to try to do your best to win something and I think that’s clear. That’s what’s being talked about at the last race, but to turn everything to a negative seems definitely absurd to me.”

The final race of the women's season also marked the final race of Ragnhild Mowinckel, the two-time Olympic silver medalist who announced her retirement last month.

It was Mowinckel's 248th World Cup start and she was greeted with a huge round of applause after she crossed the line as the five skiers who had already competed rushed to embrace the 31-year-old Norwegian. Her family was in tears.

Mowinckel finished last, 3.32 seconds behind Huetter.

Gut-Behrami's Swiss compatriot Marco Odermatt will also be looking to complete a quadruple in the men's downhill that brings the season to a close on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Odermatt locked up his third straight overall championship and the giant slalom title weeks ago and lifted the super-G crystal globe on Friday. He leads Cyprien Sarrazin by 42 points in downhill.

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