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Goggia captures Olympic downhill title, beats pal Vonn

February 21, 2018

Gold medalist Sofia Goggia, of Italy, is carried by members of her team, after the flower ceremony for the women's downhill at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Jeongseon, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

JEONGSEON, South Korea (AP) — Riding the gondola to the top of the mountain Wednesday morning, Sofia Goggia watched the sun rise over the site of her first Olympic downhill and had one clear thought:

“I put my boots on and said, ‘This can be my day, so let’s make it,’” the newly minted gold medalist said.

Really, though, the 25-year-old Italian has been picturing this day since she sat on her sofa as a teenager, watching Lindsey Vonn glide toward a downhill gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

“I said, ‘I wish one day I can be there racing at the top,’” Goggia said .

Fast forward eight years: She now has that gold medal of her own.

Goggia found speed along the bumpy course that few could manage and held off Vonn & Co. for the title Wednesday at Jeongseon Alpine Center. It’s the first women’s downhill crown at a Winter Games for the Italian team.

“Today was a really good day,” she said. “I am going to erupt.”

The fifth skier to take the course, Goggia gave a shrug of her shoulders soon after finishing in a time of 1 minute, 39.22 seconds. With Vonn going two racers later, it looked as if she thought Vonn might eclipse her time.

She insisted that wasn’t the case.

“I’m really happy, because I really made a solid run. No mistake,” Goggia said. “The best good job ever came today.”

Still, she had to wait. After dodging a close call from Vonn — who finished 0.47 seconds behind her — Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway threw a scare at her as the 19th racer out of the start gate. Mowinckel finished 0.09 seconds behind Goggia to take silver and knock Vonn down a spot.

Goggia or Vonn. Vonn or Goggia. Both were the favorite, depending on which one was asked. No added pressure, though.

“I didn’t act like I was the favorite. I acted like it was just myself. It was just about myself,” Goggia said. “I just focused on the few essential things I had to do to do my best. I was not focused at all on the result.”

That’s a lesson she learned from the super-G a few days earlier, when she finished 11th. It wasn’t a deterrent so much a reminder.

“I just said to myself after I crossed the finish line (in the super-G), ‘On the downhill, I’m trying to be the best Sofia that day,’” she said. “I will be focused on myself and will be watching the time, once I cross the finish line. Then, how it goes, it goes.

“I was happy about my skiing,” she said.

Before Wednesday, Goggia had never won gold at an Olympics or a world championships event. She had just four World Cup wins, two of them at this venue — a downhill and super-G last March — with Vonn finishing right behind her both times.

The two are good friends, bonding over a fondness for dogs and a love of ski racing. Much like Vonn, Goggia has dealt with serious knee injuries over her career.

“She’s an amazing competitor,” Vonn said. “I knew she was going to be the one to beat today. I heard her time when I was in the start and knew it was going to be hard to beat. I gave it everything I had.”

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