Team USA’s Lindsey Vonn and Italy’s Sofia Goggia both went head to head for medals in the women’s downhill final at the 2018 Winter Olympics — and even though Goggia beat Vonn to win gold, the competition did nothing to jeopardize their close friendship.
Along with American Mikaela Shiffrin, Goggia is considered one of Vonn’s biggest rivals, having bested her in last year’s downhill and Super-G test events in PyeongChang. Though Goggia beat Vonn by just hair in both the downhill and Super-G in the trials, she picked Vonn as the favorite to win when it came to the real thing in the downhill final on Wednesday.
“Maybe she is the favorite, she has so much experience,” Goggia told Reuters before their race, before adding, “No, she is definitely the favorite.”
Yet, the 25-year-old handily beat Vonn to win Olympic gold in the final, while Vonn won bronze just behind Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway.
Before and after their runs, Goggia and Vonn were seen giving each other a long embrace — a far cry from the bowing that Goggia gave Vonn when they first met years ago.
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“She started bowing down to me. I’m like, ‘What the hell are you doing? Get up.’ She said she has a lot of respect for me and she has been hurt many times and that I was a big inspiration to her,” Vonn told the Associated Press. “Ever since then we’ve been really good friends.”
Goggia has made a name for herself since making her World Cup debut in 2011, have earned 13 podium finishes last season, according to the AP. She also stands out thanks to her pre-race ritual, which sees her taking an icy shower to start her day, then receiving a slap to the chest and punch to the face before spitting out saliva as she prepares to jump out of the gate.
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The ritual, she told the AP, is designed to spike her alertness level so she’s ready to put herself on the line while going down the hill. This is probably one of the reasons she was able to finish a tenth of a second ahead of second place in the downhill final.
But Goggia’s wild style is one of the reasons Vonn has become a fan.
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“That’s why I like her. She’s always exciting to watch,” Vonn said, adding that she saw something similar in herself. “You got to man up and push the limits and that’s what she does every time. I have a great deal of respect for that.”
After their first meeting, Goggia visited Vonn in Colorado and they both basked in their love of dogs. Vonn has never been shy about showing how much she loves her pups, and even runs her own Instagram featuring her three dogs: Lucy, Leo and Bear.
Other than their shared love of dogs and skiing, Vonn and Goggia have another thing in common, albeit something a little less jovial: Like Vonn — who has experienced a slew of injuries, such as two torn ACLs, two concussions and multiple broken bones — Goggia has had her fair share of bruises, suffering three serious knee injuries in her career.
Though Goggia beat her in the downhill final, if Vonn was to choose anyone else to earn the gold outside of herself, it’s safe to say that pick would likely be Goggia, who made history by becoming the first Italian woman to take the Olympic downhill title. It likely won’t be her last.