Gold for Goggia, and another Alpine upset

Sofia Goggia from Italy confirmed her position as current world number one with an emphatic Alpine skiing downhill gold. Ragnhild Mowinckel from Norway was the surprise silver medallist at PyeongChang 2018 on 21 February, while Lindsey Vonn from the USA won bronze.

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Goggia, 25, had already won two World Cup downhills and won last year’s test event on the Olympic course at Jeongseon Alpine Centre. But these Games marked her Olympic debut. She became the first Italian woman to win a downhill Olympic gold.

Goggia was a little off the pace on the traverse and was on the backseat coming off the Dragon’s Claw. But she found nearly half a second between gates three and four, building her best speed into Magic Valley. From Dragon’s Back onwards, her pace was impressive, and she easily outpaced Tina Weirather (LIE), then in top spot, with Vonn still to ski.

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Mowinckel, skiing 17th, was not expected to trouble the leaders, but fought the whole way down, with smooth, clean runs through the Dragon’s Back and Magic Valley. The 25-year-old had never finished higher than sixth on the World Cup downhill tour.

She screamed in delight at her spectacular run, as she became the first Norwegian to win an Olympic downhill medal. Weirather, who she knocked off the podium, was the first to congratulate her. 

Vonn bowing out with bronze?

Vonn had added to the sense that the women’s downhill would be a head-to-head battle with Goggia by talking this week about how she watches film of Goggia’s line in training and makes appropriate adjustments. But Vonn’s homework didn’t quite pay off, with Goggia clocking 1:39.22, a comfortable 0.47 seconds ahead of Vonn. Vonn’s bronze in PyeongChang follows her gold and bronze medals at Vancouver 2010.

A mistake had kept Vonn off the podium in the super-G on 17 February, and the most successful female World Cup Alpine skier of all time bowed her head as Mowinckel nudged her down to third place. Vonn, who is 33, has said she will almost certainly retire soon, and was true to her promise on social media the day before the downhill event: “There’s only one thing I can guarantee – I will give everything I have.”

Ragnhild Mowinckel (Getty Images)

Mowinckel’s unexpected run knocked Weirather off the podium. The Liechtensteiner could not add to the success of her mother, Hanni Wenzel, who won downhill silver in Lake Placid in 1980 and remains the only Alpine skier from Liechtenstein to win a downhill medal.

Another of the favourites, Lara Gut (SUI), took the wrong line off the Dragon’s Claw and missed a gate, failing to finish the course.

Intelligent skiing

Goggia said her achievement was still sinking in. “I still haven’t quite realised yet. I think I’ll realise when I’m on the podium. I’m very proud. I feel so focused on the day that I haven’t realised yet what I’ve done. 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.”

Goggia said she skied from the head rather than the heart. “I didn’t take any risks. 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.”

The Italian has a good relationship with Vonn. “Lindsey is a great skier, the greatest skier, a great person and a great woman,” she said. “It’s always an honour 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.”

Vonn too perfect?

Vonn acknowledged her rival at the bottom of the course and again after the race. “I gave it all today, skied a great race,” she said. “Sofia just skied better than I did. I thought I executed the line really well on the whole course, perhaps too well. I tried too hard to stay on the perfect line. But I’ve no regrets. It was tough to contemplate this being my last Olympic downhill. I struggled to try to keep the emotions together, but I left it all on the mountain like I said I would. I skied really well, but Sofia was untouchable today.”

Lindsey Vonn (Getty Images)

Vonn was philosophical about the possibility of rounding off her career with a bronze medal. “If you think what’s happened over the last eight years and what I’ve been through to get here, I gave it all. To come away with a medal is a dream come true,” she said. “You’ve got to put things into perspective. Of course, I’d have loved a gold medal but, honestly, this is amazing and I'm so proud.”