CORTINA D'AMPEZZO – CORTINA D'Everything was perfect — the snow, the course, Cortina’s renowned bluebird weather.
Everything was set up then for Breezy Johnson, who was predicted to turn solid, consistent form into a medal in the women’s downhill at the skiing world championships.
Even the one skier who consistently beat Johnson this season, Olympic champion Sofia Goggia, wasn't a factor, because the Italian was out injured.
So what could stop the American in the biggest race of the year?
It turned out to be a problem that any skier wearing a face mask and glasses could understand — her goggles fogged up.
“I got distracted,” she said on Saturday after the race. “I lost sight of what I needed to do.”
That was all it took for Johnson to make a major mistake coming across a traverse only 10 seconds into her run. Struggling to regain control, she had to place her right glove and hip down onto the snow just to regain her balance and keep her skis from slipping out from under her.
The mishap cost Johnson nearly a second of precious time and a possible place on the podium. She did well to recover and was faster than anyone else through the middle section of the sun-bathed Olympia delle Tofane course, but she finished ninth, 0.90 seconds behind Swiss winner Corinne Suter.
“My goggles fogged in the start,” Johnson said. “I knew that they would de-fog as I went down as the wind got into them. But I couldn’t see very well on the first couple of gates.
“I was trying to stay out of the wind and was trying to stay low and I didn’t stand over my outside ski quite well enough and hit the bump and went on my hip and lost quite a bit of time,” she added. “I thought I was going to go out but managed to hold it together.”
Without that mistake, would Johnson’s run have been good enough for a medal?
“I don’t really think about it that way,” she said. “I skied really well and I’m happy with my skiing and I skied my best and that’s what matters. Ninth place, fifth place, first place. That’s just how it all shakes out.”
Indeed, Johnson should be encouraged that her pace was otherwise among the best in the 31-women field.
It’s been that way all season.
The racer from Victor, Idaho, achieved the first four podium results of her career with four straight third-place finishes in World Cup downhills and sits second in the season-long discipline standings. Her worst finish this season on the regular tour was fifth.
“I know my skiing is really good,” Johnson said. “I know going into the rest of the season there’s still a lot for me to accomplish.”
With three downhills remaining this season, Johnson trails Goggia by 195 points and is 15 points ahead of Suter in the World Cup discipline standings. Goggia recently said “it would take a miracle” for her to return for the final race next month after breaking a bone in her right knee.
Wins are worth 100 points each.
“I've got to keep doing my best and I've got to keep doing what I did on the bottom through the whole course,” Johnson said. “May the best woman win.”
Johnson, who finished 15th in the super-G at the worlds, is also entered in Monday’s combined race — which consists of one super-G run and one slalom run.
“I’m not a medal favorite or anything,” she said. “But it’s a good chance to do some more super-G. I have a lot of fun on this hill and why not get another chance down it?”
Foggy goggles or not.
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Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf