Timing her rise to perfection
A brilliantly versatile skier who made her breakthrough in the 2016/17 season, Italy’s Sofia Goggia scored her first two World Cup wins within 24 hours of each other, in the downhill and super-G at Jeongseon, the venue where she will be aiming for Olympic gold in 2018.
Returning to a scene of former glory can often inspire an athlete to produce their very best form. Italian skier Sofia Goggia will certainly be hoping that is the case if she steps out at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre at Pyeong Chang 2018.
It was there, at the pre-Olympic test event in March 2017, that the 24-year-old from Bergamo registered the first two World Cup wins of her burgeoning career, victories she will hope to repeat when Olympic gold medals come up for grabs.
The most versatile skier on the slopes
A genuine all-round talent, Goggia was rarely off the World Cup podiums during the 2016/17 season, scoring nine top-three finishes (five second places and four thirds) in the giant slalom, downhill, super-G and combined prior to her March double.
The highlight of her campaign up to that point was the bronze she won in the giant at the 2017 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in St Moritz, behind France’s Tessa Worley and the USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin.
In topping the leaderboard in the downhill at Jeongseon, however, Goggia could hardly have chosen a better place to score her first major career win.
Trailing the great Lindsey Vonn by 0.22 seconds at the fifth split, the Italian found an extra gear in the final turn, picking enough pace in the closing metres to beat the American by seven hundredths of a second. Taking third place behind Vonn was the leading downhiller of the season, Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia, the 2017 world champion.
The Italian topped the podium again in the following day’s super-G, with Vonn and Stuhec again completing the top-three, the American being pushed into second place by a mere 0.04 seconds.
Attempting to explain her sudden success in the Republic of Korea, Goggia said: “I think my qualities as a Ninja warrior are more appreciated in Asia, and that’s why my first career win had to come here.”
She rounded her season off with two more podium finishes, this time in Aspen (USA): third in the downhill and second in the giant slalom.
The persevering Goggia has had to take a circuitous route to the top. An extremely talented young skier with a very promising future ahead of her, she was a national junior super-G champion at the age of 15.
A star of the FIS European Cup in 2008, when she recorded a series of excellent results in her four events, she was sidelined after sustaining a knee injury in the super-G in Kvitfjell (NOR) in January 2010.
On making her comeback in the 2011/12 season, she won the European Cup downhill title. The Italian then stepped up to the FIS World Cup, making her debut at the age of 19 in the giant slalom in Lienz (AUT) in December 2012.
The first sign that she had what it took to excel at the highest level came when she finished fourth in the super-G at the 2013 World Championships in Schladming (AUT).
In December that year, however, she suffered another serious injury to her left knee in the downhill at Lake Louise (USA), tearing a cruciate ligament and damaging her meniscus.
After commentating at Sochi 2014 for Italian TV, she returned to competition only to pick up another injury, undergoing yet more surgery at the end of the 2014 season.
Proud to be Italian
After making a full recovery and regaining her feel for the slopes and her confidence, Goggia finally took her place among the world’s leading skiers in the 2016/17 season, one she capped with her superb double in Jeongseon.
“It’s quite a long run and it’s got pretty much everything,” said the Italian of the Olympic venue. “There are some steep sections, jumps and flat sections, some nice turns and perfect landing areas, and I have to say that I love it.
“Yes, I won on the Olympic course but things can change over the next year,” added Goggia, whose hearty rendition of her national anthem during the medal ceremonies in Jeongseon proved a big draw on social media. “I’ve had some great races, but we’ll just have to wait and see. I’ll talk about the Games when I’ve got enough points to qualify.”Should she kick on and book her place at PyeongChang 2018, the gifted Goggia will no doubt recall her double triumph there a year earlier and believe that she can go and do it all over again.