GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) – Lindsey Vonn edged Sofia Goggia in a foretaste of the Pyeongchang Olympic downhill on Saturday, raising her career total to 80 World Cup victories.
The American standout beat Goggia by two hundredths of a second as their ongoing rivalry in Alpine skiing’s fastest discipline continued.
“It’s a big number,” Vonn said of her 80 wins, which is just six short of the all-time record set by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark in the 1980s.
“I remember when I got my 50th here, I never thought I would even get close to Annemarie Moser-Proell’s record (of 62 wins) and now I am getting close to Stenmark’s. It’s incredible,” she said.
“Also the timing of this win, coming into the Olympics,” Vonn added. “I really feel strong mentally and physically. I never thought in my life I would get 80 wins so it’s a big day.”
Vonn skied a solid run but didn’t seem to go to the limits as she trailed Italian rival Goggia by 0.08 at the last split time. However, Vonn overcame the deficit in the final section.
“I definitely skied aggressively, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t leave all the cards on the table,” Vonn said. “I hold those extra aces for the Olympics.”
It was Vonn’s second straight downhill win after Cortina, Italy, two weeks ago. She and Goggia are the only racers with more than one downhill victory this season.
Cornelia Huetter of Austria was 0.13 behind in third, while Vonn’s American teammate Breezy Johnson finished fourth for her career best result.
Earlier Saturday, Johnson and Vonn posted the fastest times in a mandatory training session two hours before the race, after training was canceled on the previous two days.
Vonn’s joy was tempered, however, by teammate Jacqueline Wiles’ crash.
Shortly after completing her run and taking the lead in the race, Vonn saw on a large video screen in the finish area how Wiles fell, slid through a gate and went into the safety netting. Wiles appeared to have hurt her knee and had to be transported off the hill by helicopter.
Earlier, Lauren Ross, who’s working her way back after a severe knee injury, also crashed hard but she stood up and eventually skied down.
“It was really hard to actually be happy and excited and celebrate because Jackie is in the hospital,” said Vonn about Wiles, who has been financially supported by Vonn’s foundation.
“It’s a really rough day for the whole team,” Vonn said. “I am happy that Lauren wasn’t hurt. I think she will be really sore tomorrow but at least her knee is OK. We are just all hoping that Jackie is OK.”
Another downhill on the Kandahar course is scheduled for Sunday, the last World Cup race before the Olympics, and Vonn was expecting another close duel with Goggia.
The Italian edged Vonn in both speed races that were held as test events on the Olympic hill in South Korea last year.
“She is always risking everything, she’s the person that I have to beat,” said the American, who is chasing another Olympic downhill medal to add to the gold she won in Vancouver 2010.
“She is a personality that is really needed on the World Cup,” Vonn added. “We are playing a little game with each other: who has the hundredths, you know. It makes it more exciting for us and also for the spectators.”
Goggia was smiling and hugged Vonn afterward.
“From the start gate to the red finish line, it’s a battle. But after, we are friends,” Goggia said. “This is the rivalry that I like. It’s really fun and challenging for me.”
The Italian’s daredevil style of racing has sometimes been seen as similar to Bode Miller’s approach, but Goggia laughs off any comparisons with the American great.
“It would be a great honor just to have 1 percent of Bode,” she said. “I am far away from him. I am a show girl on the skis sometimes and I think that’s the only thing we have in common. He has a class that I will never reach.”