One of the most aggressive and glamorous sports of the Winter Olympics is that of the Downhill. For men and women skiing at remarkable speeds down steep slopes, it often appears as though only a miracle is keeping them upright. With such drama and daring, the participants are only an inch away from disastrous injury when they fall. It is an event that takes away the breath of spectators.
This year’s Olympic Games in South Korea were no exception. For Sofia Goggia, the 25 year-old gold medal winner, it came as vindication of her tenacity, grit and go-for-broke style. According to her coach, Sofi’s mental toughness is remarkable and she is absolutely fearless on the slopes. Regardless of whether it is a minor event or one that is on the world stage. She begins her race day preparation with an icy shower. Before she leaves the starting gate, it is customary for a teammate to give her a smack to the helmet and a thump to the chest. Perhaps it is to get her focused, maybe it just gets Sofia mad, but when she leaves the gate there is no mistaking her. She is constantly on the attack. Even during her gold medal run in Pyeongchang, when she made an error near the top of her run, she did not ease up for a millisecond.
Born in Bergamo, Italy, in 1992, she made her world cup debut at the age of 19 in 2011. She began skiing at age three in Foppolo, Italy. After seeing her brother ski, she convinced her parents to let her try the sport. With only four career starts in giant slalom (and no finishes) in her World Cup career, Goggia was named to the Italian women’s team for the 2013 World Championships in Schladming, Austria. She capitalized on the opportunity and posted two top ten finishes: fourth in the super-G and seventh in the super combined. Goggia attained her first World Cup podium in November 2016, a third place in giant slalom at Killington. She won the bronze medal in the same event at the World Championships in February. She is the first female Italian alpine skier to have secured podium finishes at World Cup events in four different skiing disciplines – giant slalom, super G, downhill and combined.
In 2018, in addition to her gold medal in February, she won consecutive World Cup downhills in mid-January at Bad Kleinkirchheim and Cortina d’Ampezzo. She recently captured the World Cup season title in downhill, edging out American Lindsey Vonn by three points.
Vonn and Goggia both went head to head for medals in the women’s downhill final at the Winter Olympics and even though Goggia beat Vonn to win gold, the competition did nothing to jeopardize their close friendship.
Before and after their runs, Goggia and Vonn gave each other hugs. Said Vonn after the season’s last World Cup event in Sweden, “I’m really happy to close out the season with a win and I’m sure Sofi is very excited to have the title. She always gives it 110 per cent and sometimes she wins and sometimes she crashes. I feel like she is very similar to myself. We have a great deal of respect for each other and it’s been fun to compete with her this year.”
The two are kindred spirits, sharing a burning desire to be the fastest on the slopes and rehabbing injuries when it all goes wrong. If everything had gone smoothly, Sofi could have made it to the top much earlier. Her first taste of glory in 2013 was to mark the beginning of a difficult period for the rising star. She injured her left knee shortly after being named to the Italian National Team. She was forced to rest for a long period and missed out on the Olympic Games in Sochi. But in 2016, Sofi began the rise that has now taken her to the top of her sport. Personable and chatty, her style off the slopes is in marked contrast to her warrior-like approach once she dons her skies. The media loves her self-effacing attitude as well as her quick wit, but her quips will never be as fast as the young woman when she is on the slopes. Congratulations Sofi!