By Steve Keating
LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (Reuters) -Italy’s Olympic champion Sofia Goggia turned in a near perfect run to claim the opening women’s Alpine World Cup downhill of the season on Friday ahead of American Breezy Johnson and Austria’s Mirjam Puchner.
Goggia, who last season won the downhill crystal globe for a second time, posted a time of one minute 46.95 seconds at the Canadian ski resort crossing almost a second and a half clear of Johnson to secure her ninth World Cup downhill win.
The 29-year-old, who had last season cut short due to a knee injury suffered in January, is the first Italian woman since Elena Fanchini in 2005 to win a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise.
“I cannot explain the victory today,” said Goggia, after collecting her fifth consecutive downhill victory. “The only thing I tried to do is go the straightest I could.
“I thought if I won the race here it would have been so tight, instead I won with one second and a half – the biggest margin I have ever won.
“I also know tomorrow is going to be another race.”
After two days of high temperatures and wet snow, the cold and sunny skies returned to Lake Louise allowing the first of back-to-back downhills which will be followed on Sunday by the season opening super-G.
Johnson, who had third-place finishes in each of the opening four downhill races of the 2020-21 World Cup season, was 1.47 seconds behind while Austria’s Puchner completed the podium.
“I hope she (Goggia) is not unbeatable but that was an incredible run,” said Johnson. “I felt like today was a really solid run, I expected to be closer to Sofia but she really just put the hammer down and skied incredibly.
“She didn’t beat us all skiing badly, she beat us all skiing really well.”
American double-Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin, who remains the most recent American woman to win the Lake Louise downhill after her 2017 triumph, finished in 26th place, a distant 3.60 seconds off the pace.
“My skiing felt quite good,” said Shiffrin. “With minimal speed training the last month there are probably some good improvements I can make.
“I felt like my run was really solid and executed my plan.
“But there are things I can do better, so step-by-step.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating; Writing by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)