Bouncing back from 12th place in San Candido, Italy, on December 20, the Australian Institute of Sport / NSW Institute of Sport scholarship holder skied with great purpose, progressing through to the final eight, and while missing the race-off for the top four, she finished second in the consolation final to take sixth place.
The main final was won by France’s Ophelie David, who recorded her 24th victory in World Cup competition, with Germany’s Anna Woerner in second and Frenchwoman Alizee Baron in third.
While Owens went to St Johann with a desire to finish on the podium, she leaves Austria in a positive frame of mind, knowing that after 35 World Cup career starts that she still has the potential of competing at the highest level once again.
Much of the Australian’s success and renewed confidence was paved by her strong performance in yesterday’s qualifying, which saw Owens record the weekend’s seventh fastest time among the field of 35 skiers.
However, as Owens skied toward the finish line in the small final, a split second decision may have cost her victory in the consolation event.
Going over the last set of rollers before the finish line, Owens was leading France’s Marielle Berger Sabbatel by a slender margin.
In an attempt to provide a small advantage, Owens sat back on her skies, but instead of creating the small amount of acceleration that she was hoping for, the opposite occurred and the Frenchwoman cross the line first, relegating Owens to second in a photo finish.
Race judges took several minutes of studying the photo to separate Owens and Berger Sabbatel.
AIS ski cross head coach Matt Lyons was full of praise of Owens, saying that she, and the rest of Australia’s ski cross team, had done considerable soul searching after their disappointing opening to their World Cup season.
Lyons said that all team members showed significant improvement in Austria compared with the first event.
“After San Candido everybody took a deep breath and reassessed everything,” Lyons said.
“They dug deep, did some soul searching and a lot more training than was originally planned. Today was a big improvement.”
For the full story and details of other Australians in action at St Johann, go to the OWIA website: www.wintersports.com.au
Results of other Australian team members were also encouraging.
Katya Crema was the unluckiest athlete of the weekend, missing the finals by 0.19 second, largely brought about by a sudden snow storm during her qualifying run, which was not a factor when the first 16 athletes skied.
Sami Kennedy-Sim finished qualifying in 28th place while young gun Anton Grimus missed the cut for the finals by just 0.2 seconds and showed glimpses of his potential.
The encouraging results have offset some of the disappointment resulting from a training accident that saw Australia’s number one male ski cross athlete Scott Kneller fracture three fingers in his left hand.
Kneller is undergoing rehabilitation in Australia and it is hoped that he will rejoin the team in February to compete in the last two events of the season.