The Italian team continued to steamroll the women’s World Cup tour on Sunday as Federica Brignone won her fourth race of the season in three different disciplines and Sofia Goggia joined her in second place for her first podium finish since mid-December under tough circumstances in the Rosa Khutor super G. Joana Haehlen of Switzerland, on a career-best roll, rounded out the podium in third place for the second weekend in a row.
After snow, rain, and warm temperatures shut out the first four days of the women’s speed program at the site of the 2014 Sochi Games, the venue successfully held its first World Cup competition since the Olympics. The entire program was lost last season under similar circumstances, and doubts ran high on Saturday morning when all efforts to pull off the downhill race had to be abandoned. The course crew undertook an aggressive grooming and watering regimen to restore the track in time for Sunday’s last chance super-G. Cold temperatures and clear skies on Saturday offered the race organizer the slightest window to save one race on the women’s calendar.
With snow falling at the start and a wet mixture dropping in the finish, Brignone launched a calculated attack on the swinging course from bib 13 and held a substantial lead already at the first intermediate. Unpredictable snow conditions, especially in the middle and lower sections of the course, proved troublesome to nearly all of the athletes and Brignone was no exception. She caught an edge and slid low on a particularly problematic right-footer just before the second intermediate, losing her entire lead and then some. At the third intermediate, she had slowed to the third fastest. But an athletic recovery coupled with a full attack and the cleanest skiing on the final pitch – where soft snow and bumps rattled pretty much everyone else – propelled her to the victory with a time of 1:25.33.
“I have to say that super-G is my favorite discipline. It’s always the one I prefer, the one I have more fun [in], but for sure I’m really proud about how I’m skiing this year. In years like this, normally I’m really good at steep parts when it’s really technical, especially in super-G, but now I’m getting better at every single race and in every condition so I’m really proud and really happy about this,” said Brignone. “Today, I wanted it so bad after my fall in Bansko – five gates from the finish line.”
With the win, Brignone assumed the lead on the super-G season standings, moving up from fifth and overtaking previous leader Mikaela Shiffrin – who strategically opted to pass on the Rosa Khutor weekend in favor of rest and training – by 16 points.
Goggia came incredibly close to missing the weekend’s races after suffering tibial bruising on her right leg in a crash during the first downhill race in Bansko the week before. After sliding into the nets in Bulgaria, she had to sit out the next two days of competition with the lower leg injury and ultimately decided to return to Italy. She credits OrtholabSport in Milan with developing a custom shin guard to offer protection for her tibia, and she was able to travel to Sochi and rejoin the tour on Tuesday.
“I have to say that I came three times in my life to Sochi, and this is the first race that I made. It was the same last season with the forecast: snowing, snowing, snowing, and it was pretty tough. I think that the resort is beautiful. Yesterday, with the sun and clear blue sky we had a wonderful panorama. But it’s so close to the sea that it gets really difficult to achieve a lot of events with good weather. Today we raced, and I’m happy we did even though the conditions in some points were not that good. But we managed it, and we handled it,” said Goggia.
Skiing with the guard on her leg, Goggia pushed hard but remained within her limits. Even with some drifting turns in the middle of the course, she held a 0.32-second advantage over her teammate heading onto the final pitch. There were no drastic mistakes but some harder redirections in the closing turns that dropped Goggia 0.20 seconds behind Brignone by the time she crossed the finish line.
“I’m coming from three years in which me and Federica were really on the top. When you have two top-level skiers in a team, then all the girls follow. So the team grew up really well, and I’m really happy that the movement is skiing fast,” reflected Goggia who has contributed twice to the Italian team’s remarkable feat of claiming six of the twelve available podium spots in super-G so far this season.
Haehlen also used motivation from the Bansko races, albeit in the opposite form, to secure the second podium finish of her career and the second in two weeks. With compact positioning and an aggressive approach on the bottom of the course, she made up a half-second deficit to finish in third place for her first ever podium in super-G.
“After Bansko, everything is just additional. For me, it was a dream come true with my first podium and now just ski and know that I can be fast and that was really good,” remarked Haehlen. “I actually like super-G a little more. I knew I could be fast in super-G too, especially after Bansko … it’s so cool to have two podiums after this trip. It feels amazing.”
Late start numbers did not play in favor of the U.S. Ski Team in Rosa Khutor. Still, Alice Merryweather held on through the bouncing track to finish a discipline-best in 17th place. Alice McKennis also picked up points in 27th. Both Breezy Johnson and Jackie Wiles skied off course without injury.
Perhaps to the relief of many teams and athletes, Rosa Khutor does not currently appear as a host venue on any of the draft calendars for the women’s or men’s World Cup tours as far out as they are projected, through the 2022-23 season.
The women’s World Cup will next race downhill and super-G in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on February 8-9, 2020.
Top-10, women’s super G, Feb. 2, 2020, Rosa Khutor
- Federica Brignone (ITA): 1:25.33
- Sofia Goggia (ITA): +0.20
- Joana Haehlen (SUI): +0.34
- Corinne Suter (SUI): +0.42
- Stephanie Venier (AUT): +0.55
- Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI): +0.68
- Anna Veith (AUT): +0.69
- Viktoria Rebensburg (GER): +0.87
- Romane Miradoli (FRA): +0.97
- Ester Ledecka (CZE): +1.24
For complete results, click here.