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YANQING, China, Feb 12 (Reuters) – The huge sigh of relief and broad smile at the finish line said it all.
Just 20 days after sustaining a cruciate ligament injury in her left knee in a serious crash, defending women’s Olympic champion Sofia Goggia was back in action, completing the first practice run ahead of Tuesday’s downhill at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
There had been doubts whether the Italian, who skipped Friday’s super-G, would be able to recover from the January 23 crash in Cortina d’Ampezzo in time for the Games.
So his joy at having gone through the training was understandable.
“I was just happy that I was able to finish my race and to be able to approach it the way I did,” she told reporters at the finish line. “There was no guarantee that I could be here and it is already a success that I am here.
“So I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be as happy as today, after my first run.”
Goggia, the top downhiller again on the World Cup circuit this year, described her overall fitness level as “5.5 out of 10”, but crucially her knee and leg withstood the first major test since that she began her rehabilitation.
“Of course, sometimes I might have had a little pain somewhere, but I have to deal with that,” she said.
“But for me the Olympics is everything, it’s where you want to be to fulfill your childhood dream and so there’s no place I’d rather be than here.
“I don’t care what my condition is, that’s where I want to be,” she added.
Goggia finished her race in 1:35.02, 1.55 behind the fastest time in practice set by Switzerland’s Priska Nufer.
Asked about her chances of winning Tuesday’s race, Goggia smiled and said: “We’ll see…but I’m not slow.”
The 29-year-old, born in Bergamo, said the conviction of her team and support staff had been crucial to her recovery after spending three days on crutches.
“Fortunately, I was surrounded by people who really believed I could do it. When you’re surrounded by those kind of people, who trust you and you trust them, then nothing is that impossible,” he said. she declared.
“Sometimes you have to really believe in yourself, even more than anything else.”
Goggia acknowledged that she would inevitably be hampered by a lack of muscle strength in her leg, which is crucial for her to embrace her aggressive lines.
“I will give everything I have, with everything I have I will continue to work and the strength will come back, I hope in three days, but I don’t think so…. I’m happy to be here and see.”
Goggia’s American rival Mikaela Shiffrin has certainly taken note of the Italian’s return to the slopes.
“I think she’s probably the toughest person I’ve ever met. And she just skied smart, she skied smooth. She always seemed to know Sofia Goggia,” she said. declared.
“It’s so important, it’s really good to have him here. Even at the beginning of the practice runs, it seems like his reaction, the end was like oh my God, maybe I can I can. To do.”
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Peter Rutherford
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