JEONGSEON, South Korea – The United States has a fixation at the Olympics on winning gold. Lindsey Vonn showed Wednesday how to win bronze.
Before they pointed their skis down the mountain, Italy’s Sofia Goggia, Vonn’s friend and No. 1 rival in the Olympic downhill, was asked who she – Goggia – thought was the favorite.
Vonn, Goggia said. “It’s like she has already made this. She knows how to do this.”
Goggia, instead, proved the one who knew Wednesday how to do it better.
Riding a conservative line up top and then letting it rip in the middle and bottom of the nearly 1.75 mile-long course, Goggia roared to Olympic gold in 1:39.22.
It appeared, after a wait of several minutes, that Vonn, who had the No. 7 start bib, Goggia No. 5, had silver locked up. “Anything can happen … there are no snowboarders in the race today!” Vonn quipped while waiting, a reference to the super-G and the Czech Ester Ledeczka’s surprise victory.
Then, though, Ragnhild Mowinckel, silver medalist in giant slalom for Norway’s first woman’s Alpine medal since 1936, running from the 19th position, snuck into second place, dropping Vonn to third. Mowinckel finished just nine-hundredths back. Mowinckel said, “It’s good to be the underdog!”
Vonn: 47-hundredths behind.
“Of course I would have liked a gold medal,” Vonn said. “But, I mean, honestly, this is amazing, and I’m so proud.” During the post-race presentations, on the podium’s third-place level, Vonn smiled and waved and kissed her new plush toy Soohorang, the white tiger PyeongChang 2018 mascot.
“I skied a great race today,” Vonn also said. “Sofia just skied better than I did.”
Two Americans finished fifth and seventh: Alice McKennis and Breezy Johnson. Laurenne Ross finished 15th.
Goggia’s gold: the first for Italy in Olympic women’s downhill.
Vonn, 33, became the oldest female Alpine ski medalist. Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria was 32 years, 332 days in winning the super-G in Torino in 2006.
Vonn won super-G bronze in Vancouver in 2010. She is also the Vancouver downhill gold medalist.
For eight years, Vonn battled injury to get back to the Olympic downhill.
This World Cup season, Goggia and Vonn have waged a 1-2 battle in the downhill. All the same, they are, genuinely, friends. As Vonn put it: we “We just enjoy going fast and enjoy competing against each other.”
On Tuesday, Goggia said she had been struggling with a bothersome left knee. Stairs, she said, were hard. Skiing? That was OK:
“When I push off from the starting gate the world disappears, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t count if you have pain or not. It just counts how you ski and I know I can do this, even though I am not so perfect.”
After the race, Goggia said, “I’m happy about my performance. But it’s always an honor to race with Lindsey Vonn … I remember when she won in Vancouver and I said, ‘I wish one day I can be there, racing at the top.'” She paused. “And I think I still haven’t realized I am winning the gold medal in the downhill.”
Vonn, feeling 100 percent for the first time in a long time, had said before racing she would “absolutely give it everything I have,” dedicating these Games to her grandfather, Don Kildow, who died in November.
After the race, Vonn said, “I don’t know, maybe I executed a little too well. I tried too hard to stay on a perfect line. I have no regrets.”
She also said she hoped she had made her grandfather proud. Dabbing away tears, she said: “It’s sad. This is my last [Olympic] downhill. I wish I could keep going, you know? I had so much fun. I love what I do. My body just can’t – probably can’t – take another four years. But – I don’t know, I’m proud. I’m proud to have competed for my country. Proud to have given it my all. I’m proud to have … come away with a medal.”