Sofia Goggia

Italians sweep downhill on tough day for Lindsey Vonn, U.S.

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Sofia Goggia led an Italian podium sweep of a World Cup downhill, while Lindsey Vonn and the Americans all finished outside the top 10 on Sunday.

Goggia, 25, notched her first victory this season and since winning both races at the PyeongChang Olympic venue last March among 13 podiums total in the campaign.

She prevailed by 1.10 seconds over countrywoman Federica Brignone.

Nadia Fanchini was third on a tricky, shortened course in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria.

Laurenne Ross was the top American in 13th, with Vonn skiing conservatively for 27th place, 3.03 seconds slower than Goggia. Vonn waved off after finishing her run.

Full results are here.

“I knew it was going to be a struggle,” Vonn said. “Really poor visibility and pretty icy and bumpy conditions. … I really had no grip on the ice. Felt like I was skiing on marbles.

“This course takes a lot of aggression and really willing to risk everything. I’m just not willing to risk everything right now. I’ve been waiting eight years for the Olympics. I’m not necessarily disappointed in my result because it honestly doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that I’m healthy, and I didn’t end my season this weekend.”

Tough snow conditions dogged the venue all week, with one training run canceled and another shortened before racing started with a super-G on Saturday.

Another downhill training run was squeezed in hours before Sunday morning’s event.

Vonn didn’t commit to racing either day until seeing the course conditions. She was ninth in Saturday’s super-G, which marked her second-best result in eight races this season (one victory).

Ross’ 13th-place finish Sunday can be considered a bright spot.

The Sochi Olympian raced downhill, scared, for the first time since blowing out her right knee in a March 27 crash.

“These are the most difficult conditions I’ve skied in since I’ve been injured,” Ross said. “I definitely had a lot of doubt and fear an anxiety. … It didn’t feel good, but I suppose nobody’s run felt that great.”

The World Cup moves to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, next weekend, with Vonn and World Cup overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin headlining.

They are the final races before the full U.S. Olympic Alpine team will be named.

Vonn, Shiffrin, Resi Stiegler and Megan McJames have already qualified for the team.

The big-name question mark is Julia Mancuso, who has raced twice since March 2015 due to hip problems, finishing 42nd and 45th in December super-Gs.

Mancuso, 33, is the most decorated U.S. female Olympic skier with four medals.

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MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin’s dominance rarely seen in sports, let alone skiing

Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn top women’s Alpine skiing season storylines

Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin
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Three storylines for the Olympic women’s Alpine skiing season ahead of Saturday’s World Cup opener in Soelden, Austria …

1. Second time would be sweeter for Mikaela Shiffrin

Shiffrin certainly deserved last year’s World Cup overall title, awarded to the skier who accumulates the most points across all disciplines, but she was quoted in Austrian media this month intimating that it wasn’t wholly fulfilling.

That’s because the previous overall winners — Swiss Lara Gut, Austrian Anna VeithLindsey Vonn and Slovenian Tina Maze — all raced partial seasons, largely due to injuries. In Maze’s case, it was a single farewell race into retirement.

Shiffrin’s hope for stronger competition this season is already dented. Gut and Veith are sitting out Saturday’s opener. They’re targeting returns from last winter’s knee surgeries in late November or early December.

(Update: Gut surprisingly announced she will race Saturday in an early return from tearing an ACL and suffering meniscus damage in February.)

Vonn plans to race in October for the first time in five years, but she downplayed overall title aspirations in recent seasons. The 33-year-old emphasized quality over quantity in limiting her race schedule, chasing the career World Cup wins record by focusing on downhills and super-Gs.

Then on Sunday, Slovenian Ilka Stuhec, the surprise runner-up to Shiffrin last season, suffered a torn ACL that will likely keep her out the entire year.

Italian Sofia Goggia, who made her first World Cup podium last season (and then 12 more), may be the most promising challenger.

MORE: Shiffrin chases higher goals as second Olympics approach

2. Lindsey Vonn’s eight-year wait

Incredibly after all of her injuries, Vonn is arguably the Olympic downhill favorite at the moment with world downhill champ Stuhec’s ACL tear.

This season is all about the Olympics for Vonn, who spent the previous two seasons chasing (when healthy) something else — the Word Cup wins record.

She managed to reach 77, nine shy of retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s total. Vonn is capable of breaking the record this season (she won nine races in 2015-16 and eight in 2014-15), but that would be cake icing at this point. She plans to go after Stenmark in 2018-19.

Vonn can set a bunch of age records this season, including oldest female World Cup downhill race winner and oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist.

But most of all she will be motivated by having to watch the Sochi Games on TV, unable to defend her emotional downhill title from 2010.

MORE: Vonn’s bid to race men delayed

3. Comebacks, comebacks, comebacks

Other than Shiffrin and Vonn, just about every big name is a question mark because of major injuries. We mentioned Gut and Veith, but also Julia Mancuso.

Mancuso, who owns four Olympic medals, last raced March 2015. She missed the last two seasons due to hip problems but is expected to finally return the first week of December.

Mancuso has an acumen for turning it on for the Olympics — she made the podium in 2006, 2010 and 2014 with scant World Cup success those seasons.

Shiffrin’s closest slalom challenger last season — Slovak Veronika Velez Zuzulova — underwent right knee surgery in September that could keep the 33-year-old out until December.

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MORE: Mancuso narrows focus in comeback

Déjà vu for Lindsey Vonn in Olympic test event super-G

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Lindsey Vonn came to the 2018 Olympic venue and just missed victories on two straight days, by .07 on Saturday and then .04 in a super-G on Sunday.

Italian Sofia Goggia bumped Vonn to second both days, picking up the first two World Cup wins of her career in Jeongseon, South Korea.

Vonn’s performances this week certainly bode well for what should be her fourth and final Olympics next year. She came to South Korea on Tuesday still recovering from a race crash the previous Saturday, plus food poisoning last week.

Vonn overcame it to post the fastest downhill training runs Thursday and Friday before her back-to-back podium finishes in the official races.

She also made a hefty improvement in super-G. Before Sunday, Vonn’s best super-G finish was ninth in four races since returning from crash-caused knee and arm fractures in January.

“I’m really happy with my performance [Sunday], you know I struggled this season in super-G, so this is my best result by a lot,” Vonn said on NBCSN. “But still definitely frustrated by getting second place. … But, you know, I’ve learned to be patient in ski racing. I’ve lost many races by a few hundredths. I hope that the time will come back around next year for the Olympics.”

Full Results | Race Replay

After two training runs, Vonn said her confidence level on the South Korean track was similar to how she feels at her favorite venue of Lake Louise, Alberta.

Vonn has won 18 times in 41 World Cup starts at Lake Louise, a record number for any racer (male or female) at one place in history.

“The main point of this weekend is that I’m really confident on this hill,” said Vonn, who was also second in the Olympic test event downhill for the 2010 Winter Games in Whistler, B.C. “It suits my skiing really well. I know what I can do to be faster.”

Vonn remains on 77 career World Cup wins, nine shy of the record held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark. If Vonn stays healthy (no sure thing) and wins at her usual rate, she could break the record next season. Vonn owns one victory in 12 races across all disciplines since returning to racing in January from her latest injuries.

World Cup overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin skipped the South Korean speed races to prepare for next week’s giant slalom and slalom in Squaw Valley, Calif.

Shiffrin leads by 178 points over Slovenian Ilka Stuhec with six races left this season. Only a complete collapse would prevent Shiffrin from becoming the third U.S. woman to take the World Cup overall title (Tamara McKinney, Vonn).

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MORE: Vonn among Olympic medalists in documentary about gender in sports