Italian Downhiller Wins Second St. Moritz Downhill 24 Hours After Surgery, Shiffrin Fourth
Thanks to her win, Soffia Goggia pulled within 50 points of Shiffrin in the battle for the overall globe.
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Italian downhiller Sofia Goggia is one tough ski racer.
Less than 24 hours after surgery to repair her broken left hand, the 30-year-old won her 20th World Cup race—a downhill in St. Moritz on Dec. 17.
“I got up in the morning, and I didn’t feel so much pain,” Goggia said as she sat in the winner’s hot seat. “Of course, the hand is swollen, but the moment in which I understood after my first free ski run that I could make it, because we found a way to manage the ski pole and I could hold it, I was really overwhelmed with happiness and gratefulness.
“I can tell you there wasn’t any girl at the start gate with the same joy that I had.”
Goggia broke her hand in yesterday’s downhill (Dec. 16) after hitting it on an ice block near the top of the course. She was helicoptered to Milan for surgery after the race. Doctors placed nine screws and two plates into her hand. Then she was helicoptered back to St. Moritz. To race in the second St. Moritz downhill, Goggia’s team taped her ski pole to her left hand.
Related: Sofia Goggia competes in Beijing with a broken leg
With sun shining brightly in St. Moritz—a contrast to yesterday’s clouds—the race started from the top (given the poor visibility yesterday, yesterday’s downhill started lower on the mountain). The steeper gradient meant that Goggia would not have to pole hard out of the start.
The Italian finished the race almost a half-second ahead of Ilka Stuhec. In a comeback from back-to-back injuries, it was the Slovenian’s first World Cup podium finish in almost four years. Kira Weidle from Germany claimed third and stood on her fifth World Cup podium.
Just a breath behind Weidle (0.09 of a second), Mikaela Shiffrin finished in fourth. The 27-year-old American was sixth in the first St. Moritz downhill yesterday (Dec. 16) and was trying to improve on that run. She skied aggressively, committing to her tuck, and was running in podium position for the first half of her run.
“I wasn’t particularly fast on the top split [yesterday], so I was trying to make a slight adjustment on the very top split and then use my feeling from yesterday but just be a little bit more fluid and try to find my tuck position as well as I could,” she explained. “The one turn on the very bottom, one of our coaches called it the ‘money turn,’ I didn’t do that one quite as well as I have been the last days which is unfortunate.”
“But the chances of me messing up a turn somewhere on the course were going to be pretty high,” she joked.
Breezy Johnson also wanted to improve on her fifth place finish in the first St. Moritz downhill. But the downhiller went down briefly on her hip mid-course and lost time. After crossing the finish, she mimed wiping her brow in relief. Johnson ended up in 25th place, so still earned a few World Cup points.
Bella Wright had a banner day. After a DNF yesterday, she took less risk on the course, but smooth skiing and a good line put her in 11th place. It is her second best World Cup result.
Although Shiffrin has six downhill World Cup podium finishes to date on her scorecard, the American is not known as a speed skier. But with her eye on capturing her sixth overall World Cup title, she decided to compete in the St. Moritz downhills for several reasons, one being the points she would hopefully gain toward the overall.
“This is probably the first year where I’ve gone out and said right from the start that [the overall title] is definitely in my mind,” said Shiffrin. “On the one hand, I’m trying not to count points constantly, but it is in my mind all the time about which races I do. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come here and do the downhills over just focusing on the super-G.”
While Goggia gained on Shiffrin in the fight for the overall World Cup title, Shiffrin is still 50 points ahead of the Italian—475 to Goggia’s 425. And Shiffrin is over 100 points ahead of slalom rival Wendy Holdener from Switzerland (466 points). Holdener, who has won the past two World Cup slaloms, competed in both downhills at St. Moritz but finished just out of the points.
From St. Moritz, Shiffrin will compete in a slalom and two giant slaloms in Semmering, Austria, on Dec. 27-29. She knows she might pay for her decision to focus on speed skiing for a week while her tech skiing friends rested and got more training in the gates.
“It adds a certain amount of stress to know that I don’t get to have a break after these races,” Shiffrin said. “Now I’ll be training through Christmas and making sure that I can get back in my solid form for tech into the next block of races, which will be very busy. But that’s one of the things that I love to do.”
But Shiffrin also thinks some good will come from a week of speed.
“It’s actually good for me to practice the mentality that most speed skiers have to have, like really sending it down the mountain and finding the fluid fall line tactics and using the mountain to create your speed, which is honestly something I’m missing a little bit in GS right now,” Shiffrin admitted. “I’m hoping to be able to take some of what I’m learning in speed right now into the GS and hopefully find some of the crossover.”