JEONGSEON, South Korea – Lindsey Vonn went first out of the gate in Saturday’s World Cup downhill race and it nearly paid off.
Vonn was beaten by just 0.07 seconds by Italy’s Sofia Goggia in a test event ahead of the 2018 Olympics.
The American, who had finished first in both practice runs at the venue that will be used for the Pyeongchang Games, had previously only chosen to go first on one occasion in her career.
“I chose number one as I thought the snow would get a little soft later on,” Vonn said. “But I think it got a little faster between numbers five and 20.”
Competing in just her fourth event since fracturing her arm in November, Vonn clocked what looked like a winning time of 1 minute, 38:87 seconds on the Jeongseon course.
“I am really happy with my run today,” said Vonn. “I definitely made some mistakes but my skiing was good.”
Goggia, who has nine World Cup podiums this season but had never finished first, produced a near-flawless run to deny the American of her 78th World Cup win.
“I thought I couldn’t reach her because of the training run as she was so fast,” Goggia said. “We had a good fight. I am so honored to ski with a legend and today, beating her ... I am super touched.”
Goggia, on her first visit to Asia, was happy with the course but declined to say the first-place finish this time would increase her chances of gold in 2018.
“I know that I won on the Olympic track but things can change and I am not thinking about that just yet,” Goggia said. “I am just happy to focus on myself and ski well.”
Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia finished third, 0.23 seconds behind Goggia, while Laurenne Ross of the United States took fourth place.
“I felt fast but not fast enough,” said Stuhec. “My run was good. I’m not perfectly satisfied as I lost too much time in the middle section. I’m looking forward to coming back here next year to hopefully show the perfect run.”
Stuhec is the overall World Cup leader and is hoping to become the first Slovenian woman to win the downhill title.
Goggia’s win cuts Stuhec’s lead to 97 points and means that it will go down to the final event of the season in Aspen on March 15.
Before that, the season continues at Jeongseon on Sunday with the Super-G event.