If there’s one thing Sofia Goggia is not, it’s boring to watch. The 25-year-old Italian takes on every run like it’s her last, redlining from start to finish no matter the consequences. This high-risk-high-reward approach has bitten back more than a few times in her career, but paid off in the biggest way possible on Wednesday as she took Olympic downhill gold at the Jeongseon Alpine Center.
With lingering knee pain stemming from a pair of falls in Cortina, Italy, last month hampering her efforts in the super-G and downhill training runs, it was unsure what the current leader in the World Cup downhill standings would bring to the table on race day.
We never should have doubted her.
“I still haven’t quite realized yet,” she said in the finish. “I think I’ll realize when I’m on the podium. I’m very proud. I feel so focused on the day that I haven’t realized yet what I’ve done. It’s about me and my skiing and not the others.”
Running with bib five, Goggia used her strength and power to hold an aggressive line that went unmatched — especially on the bottom portion of the course. The only racer that came within a whisper of the Italian was breakout star Ragnhild Mowinkel, who not only grabbed her second silver medal of the Games, but also Norway’s first-ever Olympic women’s downhill medal, finishing a slim 0.09 seconds off of Goggia’s pace. American Speed Queen Lindsey Vonn captured the bronze in third place, 0.47 seconds back.
“I didn’t take any risks,” Goggia added. “I just used my brain because I have one sometimes and I use it. I just tried to focus on two points of the slope and I skied really focused. I still don’t realize I’m first. I was really focused, I moved like a samurai. Usually, I’m really chaotic but I wanted to take in every little detail, every particular in the morning. I believed in myself – and then what counts, counts.”
Goggia and Vonn have also developed a bond over the past couple of seasons, with the two exchanging pleasantries on the hill, joking around in the finish, and spending time together outside of the ropes.
“Lindsey is a great skier — the greatest skier — a great person, and a great woman,” Goggia said. “Everyone is, like, bowing to Lindsey. It’s always an honor to take part in the same race as her. It’s fun too. Afterwards, we’re friends, we’ll go for a coffee together, talk about our work. It’s good for our sport.”
The surprise of the day was definitely the silver-medal performance of Mowinckel. The 25-year-old has yet to crack the top five in a World Cup downhill, but earned her first two podiums this season with a third in the Val d’Isere super-G in December and a second in the Kronplaz GS last month.
“Right now, I’m baffled and surprised and can’t really understand it, though I know I’ve done well,” an elated Mowinckel said. “I really need some time to understand this, I’m so happy. I know I’ve taken big steps in downhill all season and I’ve built up all the time, and then bringing the confidence from my giant slalom medal too. Just knowing that my skiing at the moment is pretty solid, I tried to bring that into today and just go for it. Up to now, I’ve only ever been sixth in a downhill so this is such a good result.”
Heading into Wednesday’s race, Vonn was the clear favorite having won the last two World Cup downhills and if not for a costly mistake in the super-G, could very well have added another medal to her collection. Vonn has seen it all and very likely raced her last Olympic downhill on Wednesday.
At 33-years-old, she also became the oldest female alpine skiing Olympic medalist and only the second woman to win more than one Olympic downhill medal, joining German great Katja Setizinger who won back-to-back golds at Lillehammer 1994 and Nagano 1998.
“I skied a great race today, Sofia just skied better than I did,” explained Vonn. “I thought I executed the line really well on the whole course, but, I don’t know, maybe I executed a little too well. I tried too hard to stay on the perfect line. I think I skied really well but I think Sofia was untouchable today.”
The emotion of her Olympic downhill career coming to a close got to Vonn during her post-race interview with NBC as she choked up and reflected on the hard work it took and the adversity she faced to get back to the podium after the heartbreak of injury four years ago.
“I never gave up,” she said through tears. “I kept working hard and I’m really proud of this medal. I gave it my best shot, you know? I tried so hard and I worked my but off. I’m so proud to have competed with such amazing girls, you know, my teammates have really supported me and we’ve helped each other; most of us have been injured pretty severely, so I’m really happy and proud to have been competing with them and to have their support. It’s been fun. It’s been a fun ride. It’s sad, it’s my last downhill! I wish I could keep going, you know? I have so much fun. I love what I do, my body just probably can’t take another four years. I’m proud to have competed for my country, I’m proud to have given it my all, and I’m proud to come away with a medal.”
Following Vonn for a stellar team performance for the American Downhillers was Alice McKennis in fifth, Breezy Johnson in seventh, and Laurenne Ross in 15th. Wednesday’s result was the best American team performance in an Olympic downhill, ever. To top it off, Johnson is only 22. Keep an eye out for her in the coming years; you can bet she’s picked up a trick or two from skiing with the best women’s speed team in the world.
The women will race alpine combined as the last individual event of the Games on Thursday, Feb. 22.
- Sofia Goggia (ITA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR) – Head/Head/Head
- Lindsey Vonn (USA) – Head/Head/Head
- Tina Weirather (LIE) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Alice McKennis (USA) – Head/Head/Head
- Corinne Suter (SUI) – Head/Head/Head
- Breezy Johnson (USA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Michelle Gisin (SUI) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) – Stoeckli/Lange
- Ramona Siebenhofer (AUT) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|28||36||465098||CAILL Ania Monica||1995||ROU||1:45.06||+5.84||73.57|
|Did not finish|