The Hong Kong Telegraph - Goggia leads assault on Olympic downhill

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Goggia leads assault on Olympic downhill
Goggia leads assault on Olympic downhill

Goggia leads assault on Olympic downhill

Italy's Sofia Goggia will be gunning to successfully defend her Olympic downhill title on Tuesday, one of the highlights of the alpine skiing programme of the Beijing Games.

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Known as the ultimate test of raw speed, this downhill takes place on a course in Yanqing that the women racers have not previously tested, making it a real challenge.

Upwards of 10 racers are in the frame for a gold-medal finish but the slightest mistake can cost anyone dear

AFP looks at five things to know ahead of Tuesday's race.

- Goggia back -

Italy's Sofia Goggia chances of even making the Beijing Games looked slim when she crashed on home snow in Cortina d'Ampezzo last month. But she has fought back from the knee injury she sustained, saying she hadn't even thought about her leg in the third and final training run. "I'm focused on tomorrow and I'm visualising in my head the best downhill that it can be," said Goggia.

- Gut-Behrami eyes double -

Switzerland's Lara Gut-Behrami stormed to victory in the super-G just days after claiming bronze in the giant slalom. The Swiss racer admitted to feeling a "little tired" after her exertions thus far, before adding: "I am happy to have another race. I am going to try and enjoy it and ski the best I can. It's a race, it's what we are used to doing."

- Ledecka threat -

Ester Ledecka failed in her bid to claim a back-to-back Olympic super-G title just days after she retained her snowboard parallel giant slalom title, eventually finishing fifth. "I was trying to convince myself that I’m a skier! It's not that easy," said Ledecka after the super-G. After some more valuable days on skis, the Czech cross-code star could be a medal threat in the downhill.

- Shiffrin the outsider -

Mikaela Shiffrin misfired in the slalom and giant slalom, skiing out of both, before finishing ninth in the super-G. With one eye on Thursday's alpine combined, in which she will be one of the hot favourites, the American will race the downhill after two steady training runs. "I think it will be really nice to race, but you don't really come to the Olympics to feel nice," she said. "It's going to be intense and a little bit of nerves for sure but in general I think it's going to be really cool to be able to race and one of my biggest goals coming here was to start in every event. So, at least that dream may still be alive."

- Cowboy grooms the snow -

The unlikely figure of American Tommy Johnston, who farms in Wyoming for half the year, helps ensure snow of the highest standard. The self-professed cowboy happens to be one of the world's leading snow-surface experts. "My hayfields are the same way -- I want them to be perfect," he said. The surface at the National Alpine Skiing Centre in Yanqing comprises hard-packed, artificial snow -- to the delight of Johnston and racers. "Tommy knows how to prepare snow!" said Shiffrin.