PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Zany Italian Sofia Goggia denied Lindsey Vonn the chance to reclaim the Olympic downhill gold with a winning run that perfectly mixed aggression and control in the marquee event of women’s Alpine skiing at the Pyeongchang Games on Wednesday.
The bubbly 25-year-old from Bergamo clocked one minute, 39.22 seconds to take gold nine hundredths of a second ahead of Ragnhild Mowinckel, whose time of 1:39.31 won her a second silver after her second place in giant slalom last week.
Norwegian Mowinckel’s late run meant 33-year-old Vonn had to settle for bronze in 1.39.69, her third Olympic podium making her the oldest female medalist in Alpine skiing at the Winter Games, a record previously held by Michaela Dorfmeister.
“She was on my list for today,” Viktoria Rebensburg, who finished ninth, said of Goggia.
“She’s in her own world. She is a crazy girl but in a positive way. She attacks full and she goes her line and she never quits it and that’s pretty impressive.”
This was no shock in the manner of snowboarder Ester Ledecka’s win in the super-G at the weekend as Goggia leads the World Cup downhill standings, even if the Italian had finished second behind Vonn in their two most recent meetings.
Looking charged with confidence as she exploded out of the start, Goggia really hit her straps with some big air off the jumps in the mid-section of the run and stuck resolutely to her racing line.
She gave a shrug after crossing the line knowing that Vonn, the most decorated female skier of all time, was going to be going out two spots behind her.
Vonn won downhill gold in Vancouver eight years ago and, after missing the chance to defend it in Sochi because of injury, had hoped to reclaim the title in Pyeongchang.
She made a strong start on the icy slope but looked a little tentative at the top of the mountain, going wide on one turn and leaving herself too much to do in the bottom part of the run.
The American four-times overall World Cup champion still looked destined for a silver medal until flying Viking Mowinckel, who has never graced the podium in a World Cup downhill, threw caution to the wind to claim a surprise silver.
Her thrilling run in bib 19 knocked Tina Weirather out of the medals and deprived the Liechtensteiner of a second bronze to add to the one she won behind Ledecka in the super-G.
Weirather was fourth in 1:39.85 ahead of American Alice McKennis, who along with seventh placed team mate Breezy Johnson will give the American team hopes of a strong future in Olympic speed racing once Vonn has hung up her skis.
Sochi bronze medalist Lara Gut, who was pushed off the podium by Ledecka’s sensational run on Saturday, had another disappointing day and failed to finish after coming wide off a jump and missing a gate.
“I was just a little too much to the left and I couldn’t stay on the line, you cannot correct at that speed,” said the Swiss. “It is for sure disappointing to end it like that.”
Austria’s Stephanie Venier also had a race to forget, losing control of her skis as she pushed to shave vital hundredths of a second off her time and tumbling down the slope, a fate that also befell Italians Nadia Fanchini and Federica Brignone.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Greg Stutchbury