Miriam Vogt, with a history of confrontations with the German ski team, took the gold medal after the downhill and became her country's first female world champion since 1978.
Picabo Street, of the United States - sent home from a 1990 summer training camp because of a 'misunderstanding' - won silver in her first championships. The Austrian Anita Wachter, the 1988 Olympic champion, was relegated to third place.
After a week of gales and blizzards, conditions improved yesterday. Vogt, trailing Wachter by 0.02sec after Thursday's slalom leg, took the first medal of the championships with a downhill run of 1min 26.87sec on the well-prepared Mount Kotakakura course.
Wachter, the overall World Cup leader, went into bronze position after Street recorded the fastest downhill time of 1:26.44.
Britain's Claire de Pourtales finished 27th in the downhill which, added to her 11th in the slalom, gave her 14th position overall.
Vogt is now favourite for the downhill proper, which should be staged today after being called off on Thursday because of bad weather. After her victory the 25- year-old said: 'What a way to prepare for the downhill,' and promised to make a pilgrimage to a monastery near her home town in southern Bavaria to give thanks.
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