Keely Cashman skis during the Women's Downhill at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 15, 2022 in Yanqing, China.
BEIJING — In February 2018, Jacqueline Wiles was poised to compete in her second Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. With two world cup podiums on her resume, the U.S. alpine skier was a medal favorite.
Wiles never made it to South Korea. In a world cup downhill in early February that year, she crashed hard, badly injuring her left leg. After three surgeries, she rehabbed for the next 18 months. But then she crashed again. More surgeries followed, then more rehab. It was a rollercoaster.
Four years later, Wiles made it back to the Olympic stage, finishing 21st in the women’s downhill at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. The 29-year-old alpine skier was disappointed with the result — she is “capable of a lot more,” she said. But at the same time, she was happy to be back.
“It's been a long four years coming back from a tough injury and facing a mental battle for the past couple years, so I'm proud of myself,” she said. “Feels tough at the moment with the result, but I have to remember what I've been through to get here.”
Switzerland’s Corinne Suter — the reigning world downhill champion — won the 2022 Olympic downhill gold medal with a time of 1:31.87. It was the Swiss skier’s first Olympic medal. She was 0.16 of a second ahead of Italy’s Sofia Goggia, who overcame a left knee sprain 23 days ago and came to Beijing to try to defend her 2018 Olympic downhill gold medal. Nadia Delago finished third in 1:32.44, giving Italy two medals in the event.
Team USA Downhillers
Keely Cashman was the top American in 17th place — and she felt good about her performance. She had held back in the super-G last week, finishing 27th.
“Going into the downhill, I just decided it was time to fully send it and leave nothing on the hill,” she said. “That is what I did today.”
Cashman, 22, has been trying to find the mojo she had last season, when she finished three world cup speed races in a row in the top 17 (including a tenth in super-G).
But then in January 2021, she crashed training for a world cup super-G and sustained a concussion and strained MCL in her knee. Back on snow in the spring, she fell again and severely lacerated her face.
“It has been very challenging trying to gain confidence back this season,” she said after the Olympic downhill. “But this result feels like a big step in the right direction.”
Mostly, Cashman has been trying to enjoy her first Olympic Games.
“I have just been trying to have fun and take in every moment and not worry too much about the results,” she said. “I think being relaxed and honestly just having fun has allowed the ‘freedom’ in my skiing to come back — something that has been missing this year.”
A 2020 junior world championship bronze medalist (in combined), Cashman plans to compete in the 2022 Olympic combined on Thursday.
Mikaela Shiffrin also competed in today’s Olympic downhill, finishing 18th. A two-time Olympic champion, Shiffrin has not skied a downhill run since the Lake Louise World Cup in early December (and has only competed in 14 total world cup downhill races). She was happy to get more time on the long skis and is looking forward to the combined as well.
“I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to race it today and get another run under my belt for the coming days,” Shiffrin said.