VAL d’ISÈRE, France (AP) — Olympic champion Sofia Goggia held up seven fingers after finishing a women’s World Cup downhill downhill Saturday.
One for each victory in her last seven downhill starts.
Goggia stretched her unbeaten run in the discipline to a year when she and her American rival Breezy Johnson finished 1-2 for the third time this season.
Goggia has won all seven World Cup downhills she competed in since Dec. 18, 2020. The Italian missed the final two races of last season with a knee injury.
“I am really happy but I know I still have to work a lot in this discipline,” said Goggia, who became only the third skier to win at least six downhills in a single calendar year, after Annemarie Moser-Pröll achieved the feat in 1973 and 1978, and Picabo Street in 1995.
Goggia beat Johnson by .27 seconds, with Austrian skier Mirjam Puchner .91 behind in third. The rest of the field finished more than 1.3 seconds off the lead.
The result sent Goggia past Mikaela Shiffrin to the top of the overall standings, leading the American three-time champion by 10 points.
Shiffrin sat out the race but was set to compete with Goggia in a super-G on the same hill Sunday.
Goggia earned her 11th career downhill win and 15th overall with a trademark gutsy run.
She jumped farther than any of her competitors near the Telephone turn in the upper part of the course, picked a riskier race line than her rivals in the technical middle section, and reacted fast after her right ski caught a bump to quickly regain her balance without visibly slowing down.
“I made a few mistakes, I think I didn’t ski so, so, so well. But I gave all my heart,” said Goggia, who had decided to adapt her equipment after the final training Friday. “I didn’t have the best feeling in the training run and I decided to change something on my setup.
“But then when you are at the start gate,” she added, “you don’t have time to think about what you have under your feet. You just have to believe in yourself to do your best skiing.”
Racing in contrasting style, Johnson had a cleaner run, stayed on her race line throughout, and looked in complete control.
It was the seventh career podium result for the American, one year to the day after she got her first on the same course. Johnson also has four third-place finishes but is lacking a win so far.
“I feel good, I try to ski my best every day, and I am just trying to keep improving. I feel like I’m making less mistakes than I was making last year and I’m having a ton of fun,” Johnson said.
With Goggia dominating the discipline two months before the Olympic downhill in Beijing, Johnson kept looming for a mistake by her Italian rival.
“She is skiing phenomenally right now, so hats off to her,” Johnson said about the Italian. “But she knows she has to ski her best every day. If she does mess up or she doesn’t ski perfectly, or we find a hill where her skis are not running perfectly or something is not as perfect, hopefully I can be right there to take her.”
Several racers had faster starts than Goggia, but no one matched the Italian’s pace on the more demanding sections of the O.K. course, which is named after French skiing greats Henri Oreiller and Jean-Claude Killy.
Former World Cup downhill champion Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia led by four-tenths of a second and world championship gold medalist Corinne Suter was more than three-tenths faster than Goggia at the second split but both lost considerable time afterward, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.
Suter’s Swiss teammate Lara Gut-Behrami missed the race after testing positive for COVID-19 following the first training run on Thursday, ruling the 2016 overall champion out for the weekend as well as two giant slaloms in nearby Courchevel on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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