On the list of things a ski racer never wants to happen during their race run, losing control of a ski pole is pretty close to the top. Not only does it break a racer’s concentration and throw off their balance, it can also be quite dangerous having an uncontrolled piece of equipment flapping about so close to your body.
Italy’s Sofia Goggia was a zen master on Saturday in St. Moritz as the 27-year-old not only dropped a pole mid-way down her winning super-G run, but also had the mental wherewithal to decide to shake off the dangling equipment entirely when it was clear she could not easily regain control of it. Who says ski racers can’t think on their feet?
“I was not thinking about anything,” she said of the nervous moment. “I made a huge jump, I was not expecting that and I had to put so much strength in my legs to maintain the line I was supposed to do. Trying to keep my skis fast, I lost a pole and I decide to let it go. I couldn’t try to take it anymore so I decided to let it go.”
With morning fog and high winds putting an on-time start in jeopardy as the racers inspected the course, weather steadily improved as the 10:30am start time approached and it was clear that it was going to be a near-perfect day of ski racing in Switzerland. With a technical course set, plenty of challenging terrain, blind gates, and an at times unpredictable wind, the super-G in St. Moritz has earned a reputation as one of, if not the most challenging tracks on the women’s Tour.
Early bibs indicated that sound tactics as well as having the guts to ski an aggressive line were going to be key factors in how the podium was to shape up. Goggia’s compatriot, Federica Brignone, wore bib nine and was the first racer to solve the puzzle and dominate the set from top to bottom, relying on a particularly aggressive top section to put a slew of time on the rest of the field and crossed the finish with a lead of over seven-tenths of a second.
American superstar Mikaela Shiffrin played it relatively safe at the top before pulling back time in the technical middle section but was unable to match Brignone in the final turns, finishing just behind the Italian.
After an inconsistent first speed series of the season in Lake Louise, Goggia entered Saturday as a bit of a wildcard. Would we see her hold back to gain some confidence in the beginning of the season or would we see her trademark wild, attacking style that brought her Olympic gold and World Cup glory over the past few seasons? Well, she answered that question very quickly.
Goggia nearly matched Brignone’s pace on the upper sections and hung tight through the challenging middle. After flying long off a jump and ditching the pole, Goggia actually got faster, winning the bottom split and crossed the line to sneak ahead of her teammate by the slimmest of margins, 0.01 seconds.
“The super-G in St. Moritz is one of the toughest because you don’t have a point of reference on the slope,” Goggia explained after the race. “There are some hidden gates and you never know where to go. Luckily, I had good visibility and I just tried to push hard and ski fast for myself and no one else. I was really happy.”
After her unsure kickoff to the speed season last week, some questioned whether she was up to the task this season in order to challenge for wins and crystal globes week in and week out on the World Cup. Goggia, however, never had any doubts.
“I knew I was there,” she added with a sly smile. “If you have the sun inside of yourself, then it’s always there.”
Brignone’s last super-G podium came at last season’s World Cup Finals in Soldeu, Andorra, where the 29-year-old finished third.
“I’m skiing really good in super-G and I’m skiing good in general so I’m confident,” Brignone said of her performance. “I was attacking a lot and I did not know if I was on the podium or not but with my skiing, when I am attacking, I am there, I can do it. Today’s super-G was really interesting and challenging and that’s kind of the super-G that I like. I tried my best and here I am.”
The technical nature of Saturday’s course set played right into Brignone’s advantages as one of the best giant slalom skiers in the world. Even though she felt the sting of missing out on a win by such a small margin, she was proud of her approach, especially considering the unique challenges of super-G on such a demanding hill.
“My GS skills helped me a lot because I had no problems on the turns and actually, in the first steep part I was the best, I was really going straight and not having problems with arcing the turns,” she added. “Today was really tactical, super-G is so hard, you have to inspect perfectly and you have to always know where you are. That’s a thing that I like and I do pretty good but sometimes you have mistakes or you don’t give it your all because you’re afraid to make a mistake. It burns me, one hundredth today, but I am really happy with my skiing and with my performance.”
Shiffrin noted before the race that the racer who took the most aggressive line and skied the cleanest would come out on top. The 24-year-old certainly took that mindset into her run and was looking to rebound after a Lake Louise series where, by her own standards, she largely did not live up to expectations. Despite a few shaky turns, she managed to claw back nearly three-tenths of a second through the middle to land on her first super-G podium of the season.
“I think I probably did as well as I could have today,” she said. “I was really, really, aggressive and in some spots I got maybe a little bit late but then just stood on the ski and it was fine. The surface is amazing so you could do really whatever you want but sometimes when we’re at the top and hearing that some of the girls are getting late or missing gates or whatever, then you’re like, ‘What’s happening that I didn’t see in inspection?’ I was like, ‘No, go for it and see what you can do. Push the limit.’ That was a really big step in the right direction.”
In an Instagram post later on Saturday, Shiffrin announced that she will be sitting out Sunday’s parallel slalom in order to rest and recover ahead of next week’s races in Courchevel and Val d’Isere, France. Shiffrin has also been managing a minor back issue since Soelden and is looking to stay as healthy as possible throughout the long season.
Following Shiffrin for the Americans in the top-30 was Alice Merryweather in 20th and Alice McKennis in 29th. Jacqueline Wiles finished in 43rd as she continues her return to the World Cup.
Candace Crawford was the lone Canadian finisher in 35th. Roni Remme and Marie-Michele Gagnon did not finish their runs.
Additionally, Austria’s Michaela Heider suffered a violent crash during her run and had to be helped off course. The Austrian Ski Team announced that although an initial examination by team doctors indicated no serious injury, Heider will head back to Austria and undergo a precautionary MRI before returning to snow with the Austrian team.
The women will now race parallel slalom in St. Moritz on Sunday, December 15.
- 1. Sofia Goggia (ITA) – 1:12.96 Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- 2. Federica Brignone (ITA) – +0.01 Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- 3. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) – +0.13 Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- 4. Nicole Schmidhofer (AUT) – +0.30 Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- 5. Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI) – +0.72 Head/Head/Head
- 6. Nina Ortlieb (AUT) – +0.87 Head/Head/Head
- 6. Corrine Suter (SUI) – +0.87 Head/Head/Head
- 6. Kajsa Vickhoff Lie (NOR) – +0.87 Head/Head/Head
- 9. Tessa Worley (FRA) – +0.93 Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- 10. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) – +0.96 Stoekli/Lange
For complete results, click here.