By Nick Mulvenney
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Sofia Goggia carved up the Jeongseon slope “like a Samurai” to win the women’s downhill on Wednesday and leave American Lindsey Vonn with a bronze medal in her final run in the marquee event of Olympic Alpine skiing.
The bubbly 25-year-old from Bergamo clocked one minute, 39.22 seconds to give Italy its second downhill gold and a first since Zeno Colo won the men’s race in Oslo in 1952.
“I was really focused, I moved like a samurai,” said Goggia. “Usually I’m really chaotic but I wanted to take in every little detail, every particular in the morning. I believed in myself.”
Norwegian Ragnhild Mowinckel gave Goggia a scare with a blistering late run but finished second in 1:39.31, adding a surprise silver medal to the one she won in giant slalom last week.
Mowinckel’s late run meant Vonn had to settle for third place in 1.39.69, her third Olympic podium making her the oldest female medalist in Alpine skiing at the Winter Games.
“I gave it all today, skied a great race. Sofia just skied better than I did,” said the 33-year-old Vonn, who was reduced to public tears for the third time at Pyeongchang after the race.
“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 I think Sofia is untouchable today.”
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 in the mid-section of the run and produced a run that perfectly mixed her natural aggression with iron control.
“I didn’t take any risks,” Goggia added. “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.”
Goggia 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 one of the many injuries that have scarred her career, had hoped to reclaim the title in Pyeongchang.
She made a strong start on the icy slope but looked a little tentative as she tried to stick to her racing line at the top of the mountain, 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.
“This is a really big surprise,” said Mowinckel, whose medal was a record sixth in Alpine skiing for her country at the Games. “I couldn’t have done it much better than this, this was my best downhill ever.”
Mowinckel’s 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.
“It’s sad,” Vonn added. “I wish I could keep going, I’m having so much fun and I love what I do, but my body just can’t take another four years.
“During Sochi I was on the couch watching the Olympics after my second ACL surgery. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, mostly downs, in that time … It’s all worth it.”
Goggia paid tribute to her American rival.
“Lindsey is a great skier, the greatest skier, a great person and a great woman,” she said. “It’s always an honor to take part in the same race as her. It’s fun too.”
(Additional reporting by Simon Evans, Mark Trevelyan, Mark Bendeich and Rory Carroll, editing by Greg Stutchbury)