She could hardly believe it. Ski racer Lena Dürr was overjoyed and relieved after winning bronze in the slalom at the World Championships. “Oh man! I don’t believe it yet,” she said shortly afterwards on ARD. “I saw myself fourth again. But luck was on my side now. I’m very happy – the medal was my goal. And thanks to everyone who has been along the way over the years. You can’t do that alone.”

And Dürr’s path was not easy. She made her World Cup debut in 2008 and was considered a great talent, but the hoped-for success did not materialize. Many people would not have thought that she is now in the best shape of her life at the age of 31. Her former teammate Felix Neureuther, who reacted extremely emotionally, cheered all the more. “I’m so happy for you,” said Neureuther. “Wonderful, great. That must be such a release.”

Surprisingly, Canadian Laurence St-Germain, who has not yet won a World Cup race, secured victory in Méribel (France). “An ingenious world champion!” said Dürr. “Those are the special stories of such world championships.” Top favorite Mikaela Shiffrin was still in the lead after the first run and took silver at the end. It is the American’s 14th World Championship medal and her third in these title fights after gold in giant slalom and silver in super-G.

For Lena Dürr it is the first individual medal at a major event. After the first round she was still in fourth place. In the final, she benefited from the loss of the Swiss Wendy Holdener, who was second at half time, and improved by one place.

The 31-year-old had already been sorted out. That was almost four years ago – after sobering results, she was kicked out of the squad. Six months in which she was on her own and finally managed to fight her way back up.

A year ago in Beijing it almost ended in a golden sensation. But it ended in frustration and tears instead. In the slalom competition at the Chinese Winter Games, Dürr led the field after the first run and retained the top position in the second run up to the final split. But at the finish, fourth place flashed. Gold was only 0.19 seconds short, silver 0.11 and bronze 0.07 seconds. Dürr was inconsolable.

The premiere this season: Three weeks ago, in Spindleruv Mlyn, the last race before the title fights, she celebrated the greatest success of her career in her 190th World Cup race and relegated exceptional athlete Mikaela Shiffrin to second place. It was the first slalom victory by a German since Maria Höfl-Riesch’s success in 2012. And now she’s rewarded herself with bronze at the World Championships. “I definitely didn’t lose gold,” she says, “but won bronze.”