Ten years ago, Wiles scored her first World Cup points at the Italian resort with a 15th in a downhill. In 2018, she placed third in a race won by her mentor and now good friend, Lindsey Vonn.
Then on Saturday, Wiles came full circle when she finished second in a windy downhill for her best career result — and her first podium result since the 2018 race in Cortina.
“I’ve always loved Cortina,” Wiles said. “It’s my absolute favorite track. … It just has a special place in my heart."
A week after her 2018 result, Wiles crashed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, and missed nearly two full years with serious injuries to her left leg.
“It’s been an an insane six years,” Wiles said. “I tore pretty much every ligament in my knee, broke my leg and had nerve damage … and a couple more injuries after that. It’s always been a fight of trying to push it to get back to where I feel like I knew I could ski.”
In two years, the Olympia delle Tofane will host women’s races for the Milan-Cortina Olympics.
“It’s an amazing, traditional downhill track,” Wiles said. “It has all the elements of downhill. It’s pretty open, a lot of speed, a ton of terrain. And it flows really well. So it’s super fun when you’re on the line and everything is flowing.”
Wiles received financial funding from Vonn at the start of her career and was once an ambassador for the Lindsey Vonn foundation. She received a message from Vonn after finishing 13th in another downhill on Friday.
“I’m grateful that she’s still someone I can call a good friend,” Wiles said. “It’s cool to to still be in touch, and she’s still super supportive.”
Vonn, the holder of a record 12 wins in Cortina, congratulated Wiles on Instagram: “So proud of you!” and “Seems like yesterday we were on the podium together."
Wiles, though, has been through a lot over the past six years and at times contemplated retiring. Like Vonn, she still has some hardware in her leg from all of her injuries.
“Luckily all the plates and screws were taken out,” Wiles said, “But all the anchors for all the ligaments are still there.”
The 31-year-old Wiles, who is from Portland, Oregon, earned a pilot’s license during her time away from racing.
“I’m super grateful that one of my sponsors is Textron Aviation,” Wiles said. “They’ve allowed me to get my private pilot’s license, and I just finished before the season started. So last time I flew was in October before I came over here. And I can’t wait to get back and do that again this spring.”
Wiles’ friends call her Jackie or Jack but her family calls her Jacqueline.
“Honestly, I don’t care,” she said of how she’s referred to.
BELLA’S GOLDEN GOAL
Bella Wright, another American downhiller, didn’t take long to get back up after crashing and being airlifted off the course with bruises on her leg and a cut on her chin.
“It hurt, but I knew right away my legs were OK,” Wright said. “I was also spitting up blood and I wasn’t sure what that was from. And then they told me I have a laceration on my chin.”
Mikaela Shiffrin also avoided serious injury when she crashed on Friday.
Wright returned to the finish area in time to celebrate Wiles’ result. She’s aiming even higher for 2026.
“My goal is a gold medal. I mean, why else am I going to the Olympics if that’s not my goal?” Wright said. “I’m excited to hopefully come and do that in two years.”
Wright already has her mental tactics set for the Cortina course, which is framed by spectacular jagged mountain peaks jutting into the sky above the resort known as “the Queen of the Dolomites.”
“When I’m at the start, that’s what I do to calm myself down: I look up and it’s so grand and it just brings you back,” Wright said.
TEAM LEADERSHIP CHANGE
U.S. Alpine director Patrick Riml is stepping down after this weekend’s races and will move into an advisory role.
“It’s time,” Riml said, “for me to do something different.”
AP skiing: https://apnews.com/hub/alpine-skiing