Olympic champ Sofia Goggia wins 4th straight World Cup downhill
Italian skier thrives on icy snow in Switzerland; Canada's Gagnon places 11th
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 last achieved 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 in one minute 27.75 seconds, 0.27 seconds faster than Lara Gut-Behrami as both thrived on icy snow slicker than in Friday's race at Crans-Montana, Switzerland, also won by Goggia.
Goggia's teammate Elena Curtoni was third in 1:28.35, 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.
Marie-Michèle Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., the lone Canadian in the race, placed 11th in 1:29.12. The 31-year-old finished a career-best 10th on Dec. 19 in Val d'Isere, France in a race also won by Goggia.
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 to complete that season. They were the last of Vonn's 82 career World Cup victories, more than any other woman on the circuit that began in 1967.
Blowing kisses to camera
During Vonn's winning run, Goggia was runner-up three times and also won the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics downhill in South Korea where Vonn took bronze.
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 metres 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 minus-5 Celsius temperature made conditions challenging, though the strong winds of one day earlier eased.
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.
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.
A super-G race is scheduled Sunday.
With files from CBC Sports