Hilary Lindh saved her best for last - and it was good enough.
Alberto Tomba saved his best for last - but it wasn’t good enough.
Lindh - who nearly retired a year ago - was the most surprising winner of the two-week World Alpine Ski Championships, which ended Saturday, capturing the women’s downhill.
It was the first medal for the Americans, who fielded a team weakened by injuries to Tommy Moe and Picabo Street.
Switzerland’s Heidi Zurbriggen got the silver and Sweden’s Pernilla Wiberg took the bronze.
With Norway’s Tom Stiansen claiming the gold in the men’s slalom and France’s Sebastien Amiez taking silver, it was Tomba’s second run that saved the bronze medal for him.
The 27-year-old Lindh claimed her first world gold by only .06 seconds - to go with a bronze a year ago in the worlds and a silver in downhill at the 1992 Olympics.
Lindh, of Juneau, Alaska, clocked 1 minute, 41.18 seconds, with Zurbriggen finishing in 1:41.24 and Wiberg in 1:41.44.
“In the United States, the only thing that matters is the big events - winning the worlds or Olympics is the only way you get recognition,” Lindh said.
“That automatically makes us have that as our bigger goal. It’s hard when we’re away from home (in Europe) all year to ski well for a full season. It’s a little easier to come up with one big race.
Lindh was America’s top woman skier in the speed events five years ago. But a serious knee injury in 1993 set her back, with her only three World Cup wins coming in 1994. Then came a bronze behind Street in 1996.
This season was mostly a bust until Saturday’s gold.
“I was so close to not racing this year and even at the beginning of the season I was doubting whether I had made the right choice,” Lindh said.
Stiansen, who earned his first World Cup win just over two months ago in a slalom at Breckenridge, Colo., had a combined time of 1:51.70 and had the quickest second run (55.89). Amiez was clocked in 1:51.75 and Tomba in 1:52.14.
Tomba was in seventh after the first run. Attacking the icy course, Tomba clocked a second run of 55.93 - the second- quickest - in the meet’s final event.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.