In the Queen of the Dolomites, Sofia Goggia showed once again that she is the queen of the downhill. The Italian star won the first of three weekend speed races on home snow in Cortina d'Ampezzo on Friday, her fourth victory in five downhill contests this season.
After missing last Sunday's super-G race in St. Anton following a crash on Saturday, Goggia claimed victory ahead of Slovenia's Ilka Stuhec (+0.13s) and Germany's Kira Weidle (+0.36s).
"I'm coming from a really tough weekend," Goggia said.
"Basically I came here and I felt good and I was back to my best feelings, I didn't have any ghosts in my mind. I was pretty much focused about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to ski."
It was also a triumphant return for Goggia to the scene of last year's crash that almost saw her miss the Olympic Games with a knee injury. Including Friday's victory, Goggia's results in her last six races on the famous Olimpia delle Tofane course dating back to 2018 reflect her all-or-nothing approach: three victories and three DNFs.
But Friday's race was measured by the 30-year-old's usual high-risk standards as she methodically worked her way into the run, building time throughout and separating herself from the pack on the lower section. Several skiers who followed her were ahead of her pace at the halfway stage, but none could match her speed all the way down the mountain.
In winning her 16th career World Cup downhill race, Goggia equalled Germany's Katja Seizinger in equal fifth place on the women's list, as well as tying teammate Federica Brignone for the Italian women's record of 21 World Cup wins in all disciplines.
And in a ominous sign for her rivals, Goggia said she can go even faster.
"I had really a solid run but I'm well aware that I had some imperfections," she said.
"I know that in the first part I was not so fast, but I think maybe also with the hand (that she fractured last month) I cannot push that much in the start."
The best of the challengers was two-time former world downhill champion Stuhec, who reached her second podium of the season and still believes she has room for improvement at age 32.
"My run was not that perfect," she said. "There is no place for mistakes, you need to push and then sometimes mistakes happen."
Weidle, who claimed silver on the same course in the 2021 world championship downhill race, was pleasantly surprised to finish on the podium in third.
"It's a bit challenging today with the visibility," she said. "The first numbers, we had flat light, so this was a bit surprising for me. But clean, solid skiing and ready for more tomorrow."
American star Mikaela Shiffrin, returning to racing after skipping St. Anton last weekend and seeking a women's record 83rd World Cup win, was a quarter of a second ahead of Goggia after three of the five sectors but ended up fourth, 0.14 seconds off the podium.
Reigning Olympic and world downhill champion Corinne Suter of Switzerland, meanwhile, had a spectacular crash on the lower section after losing control in the air, but she was able to dust herself off and ski down the mountain unassisted.
Speed racing continues in Cortina d'Ampezzo over the weekend with another downhill on Saturday and a super-G on Sunday, but Goggia insisted she is not yet thinking about claiming the treble.
"Now one is done, we will be focused on the second," she said.
The U.S. Alpine Ski Team’s women’s speed team laid it down in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy to place three in the top 15. Mikaela Shiffrin led the way with a fourth place finish. She led the race at the top with some very fast split times, but but a little bobble toward the bottom put her into fourth, just shy of the podium. Behind Shiffrin for the Americans was Breezy Johnson in ninth place and Bella Wright in 12th.
“I did not hit my line in all the spots, but the speeds are fast and I am happy with the skiing,” said Johnson who is coming back from a knee injury she sustained last year. “My body is ok; my knee still hurts sometimes but I am just happy to be back here and get a little redemption.”
Wright started bib 27 and skied to a very quick 12th place position. She has had a consistent and strong season thus far and hopes to continue the success.
“I was really trying to focus on good skiing today,” said Wright. “I was nervous but in a good way. I am proud of the skiing and plan to improve for tomorrow. The sun was shining and it was great.”
Shiffrin continues her hunt for the 83rd record-breaking win. She currently stands at 82 wins, tied with Lindsey Vonn for the all-time woman skier record.