Sofia Goggia wins downhill for Vonn-like feat; Ester Ledecka crashes

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CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland (AP) — Olympic champion Sofia Goggia is dominating the World Cup downhill season like no woman since ski great Lindsey Vonn.

Goggia won her fourth straight downhill on Saturday to tie a World Cup streak by Vonn in 2018. They are the only women to achieve the feat in the last 25 years.

“I don’t challenge anyone,” Goggia said when asked if she was chasing Vonn’s record. “The challenge is every day with myself.”

The Italian star finished 0.27 seconds faster than Lara Gut-Behrami as both thrived on icy snow slicker than in Friday’s race at Crans-Montana also won by Goggia.

Goggia’s teammate Elena Curtoni was third, 0.60 back, ending Breezy Johnson’s streak of four third-place finishes in downhill.

Johnson was fifth, 0.89 behind Goggia, giving the United States its most consistent threat in downhill since Vonn’s stellar career ended two years ago.

Vonn’s best streak in World Cup downhill was six straight wins in 2009-10, according to the ski-db.com database. That matched her childhood idol Picabo Street’s run in 1995.

Vonn won four straight World Cup downhills from January to March 2018. They were the last of Vonn’s 82 career World Cup victories, more than any other woman on the circuit that began in 1967.

During Vonn’s winning run, Goggia was runner-up three times and also topped the season-long downhill standings. Goggia also won the PyeongChang Olympics downhill in February 2018 when Vonn took bronze in South Korea.

Goggia is one of the sport’s most flamboyant skiers and personalities though her reaction to an impressive run Saturday was quiet satisfaction in the finish area.

She blew kisses to the camera and raised both arms in the air with just a little smile. Goggia’s 11th career World Cup win was her eighth in downhill.

Runner-up to Goggia on Friday, Ester Ledecka was on course for a fast time when her run was ended by a nasty-looking crash that sent her spinning down the hill in the safety net.

Ledecka went fast and wide at a left-hand turn and was caught in the net lining the course. She was twisted around for about 20 meters (yards) before coming to a stop.

The double Olympic champion in Alpine skiing and snowboarding later skied down to the finish with her face bloodied.

The race surface was faster than on Friday when bright sunshine bathed the south-facing Mont Lachaux slope. Cloud cover and a 23-degree temperature made conditions challenging, though the strong winds of one day earlier eased.

“There was no sun, it was really dark,” said Goggia, who was clocked at a top speed of almost 67 mph. “I didn’t trust myself to push in some key points.”

Johnson crossed the finish line and mimicked wiping her forehead with relief. She and Gut-Behrami both lost time by carrying too much speed into a sharp left-hand turn mid-run and overshot the ideal racing line.

Gut-Behrami said she could “barely walk” with back and hip pains, though “at least when I’m skiing I don’t feel anything.”

Overall standings leader Petra Vlhova extended her points advantage in seventh place with low-ranked racers yet to start.

Michelle Gisin, who was in 10th place, is second in the overall standings and Goggia rose to third.

Three-time overall champion Mikaela Shiffrin is skipping speed races this season and is sixth in the standings. She should start Tuesday in a giant slalom at Kronplatz, Italy.

A super-G race is scheduled Sunday (TV and live stream schedule here).

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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