Downhill Lions Attack in Bad Kleinkirchheim
On the bumpy, shortened downhill course in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria, there was no easy way down. The only option was to give it everything, and that’s exactly what the Italian women did. Sofia Goggia fought relentlessly down the slope through challenging visibility to win by 1.10 seconds. Her teammates Federica Brignone and Nadia Fanchini, while unable to catch her, put up a valiant fight against the Franz Klammer track, taking second and third, respectively.
It has been less than a year since the Italians, who call themselves the downhill lions, pulled off a similar sweep in the giant slalom at World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo. The old adage holds true for this team. High tides raise all boats. It seems Brignone’s super-G victory on Saturday gave the team the momentum they needed to sweep again and make history. Their performances marked the first time Italian women have swept the podium in a World Cup downhill.
Goggia has been gaining speed all season. After a breakout year in 2016-17, the Italian had a slow start to the year, but returned to the podium in Val d’Isere, France. Sunday marked her first victory of the season, a good sign with a just over a month left before the Olympic downhill in South Korea. Goggia won the test event there last year and the downhill lion will be on the hunt for gold.
“Today I said to myself, ‘I’m tired of racing and nothing comes out,'” Goggia told SkiWeltCup.TV. “…I was certainly the bravest. I rode my Goggia style today, full of assault. I found that again. I’m happy about today’s result, and I’m happy for the whole team. I am especially happy for Nadia after her hard time, the injuries, the illness of her sister. I told her, ‘This victory is only for you!”
Fanchini’s older sister and World Cup skier Elena was recently diagnosed with a neoplasm, and is undergoing treatment for what is being reported as a curable disease. However, that does mean that Elena’s season is over.
The results marked significant milestones for her teammates as well. Until Sunday, Brignone had never been on the podium in a World Cup downhill. In fact, she had never seen the top 10. Her best result was 12th in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, last season.
“I’m really surprised, very happy,” Brignone admitted. “It was an advantage for me to have the start down. My chance is much bigger than usual. I never expected it. How we will celebrate I do not know, but we have a tight schedule. We’ll continue to training and then to Cortina.”
Fanchini, on the other hand, boasts a history of World Cup downhill success, but it has been two years since she stood on the podium when she won the downhill in La Thuile, Italy. The emotional result had her in tears as she stood in the leader box with her teammates to see if their times would hold.
“I am happy – also for the whole team,” Fanchini said. “After the many injuries, it is difficult for me. I have only been back on skis for two months. I dedicate the result to my sister.”
Just off the podium in fourth place was Tiffany Gauthier. The French skier took fourth place in the super-G and the downhill. Gauthier–up until Saturday–had never been in the top 5 of a World Cup. Something about the Austrian venue propelled her to the top of the results sheet. Italian Marta Bassino also had a standout performance in the downhill, coming from bib 45 to finish in 10th place. It was only the second time ever that she has scored World Cup points in the discipline.
Laurenne Ross led the American contingent in 13th place, 2.25 seconds away from the win.
“Today was an extremely tough race,” Ross shared. “These are the most difficult conditions I’ve skied in since I’ve been injured and to have to race in them was a really big challenge for me. So, I definitely had a lot of doubt and fear and anxiety and just all of the emotions…It didn’t feel good, but I suppose nobody’s run really felt that great. It’s a really difficult hill and conditions are kind of ridiculous.”
All, but one of her teammates managed to land in the top 30. Alice Mckennis, Stacey Cook, Breezy Johnson, and Lindsey Vonn finished in 19th, 22nd, 26th and 27th, respectively. Jacqueline Wiles did not finish.
“I knew it was going to be a struggle this morning from the training run,” Vonn said. “Really poor visibility and really icy and bumpy conditions. I was very conservative in the downhill training run. Obviously, I was sliding around a lot, but in the race, I was pushing harder. I just really had no grip on the ice. Felt like I was skiing on marbles, but it’s just not a great day.”
Vonn will have a chance to add more wins to her record next week at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, in two downhills and a super-G.
1. Sofia Goggia (ITA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Federica Brignone (ITA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
3. Nadia Fanchini (ITA) – Dynastar / Look / Lange
4. Tiffany Gauthier (FRA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
5. Tina Weirather (LIE) – Head/Head/Head
6. Jasmine Flury (SUI) – Stoeckli / Lange / Marker
6. Michelle Gisin (SUI) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
8. Anna Veith (AUT) – Head/Head/Head
9. Stephanie Venier (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
10. Marta Bassino (ITA) – Salomon / Salomon / Salomon
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|