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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Poetry in motion: Sofia Goggia skis with a literary soul

Italy’s Sofia Goggia speeds down the course during an alpine ski, women’s World Cup giant slalom, in San Vigilio di Marebbe, Italy, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Marco Trovati / Associated Press)
By Andrew Dampf Associated Press

CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – She celebrates like Alberto Tomba and quotes 19th century poets on Facebook.

Italian skier Sofia Goggia has been one of the biggest surprises on the World Cup circuit this season – and not just for her seven podium finishes.

After three serious knee injuries that were a result of her overly aggressive racing style, Goggia has finally harnessed her speed.

“It was pretty tough to recover, also mentally. But now I feel good and want to enjoy every second of my life,” Goggia said after placing third in a downhill training session Friday.

Goggia’s exuberance was on full display last month when she jumped into a whirlpool bath fully clothed, shoes and all, after claiming two podiums in Val d’Isere, France.

“She’s very Italian,” recently retired downhiller Daniela Merighetti said. “She’s very sure of herself and really knows what she wants.”

What Goggia really wants right now is her first career victory. That’s what she’ll be aiming for on home snow in Saturday’s downhill and Sunday’s super-G in Cortina – the premier stop on the women’s circuit.

Goggia has said that if she does finally win, she will exchange her ski boots for high heels before walking onto the top step of the podium.

“I said that when I was 15 because I never wear high heels,” said Goggia, now 24. “But I don’t have heels in my bag.”

Having spread her seven podiums across three different disciplines – giant slalom, super-G and downhill – Goggia sits fourth in the overall standings.

Among women, only Deborah Compagnoni (nine in 1996-97 and 1997-98) and Isolde Kostner (eight in 1995-96) have had more podium finishes for Italy in a single season. But Goggia has the potential to become Italy’s first overall World Cup winner since Tomba – the five-time Olympic medalist – took the prize in 1995.

She skis with no fear.

“If someone is watching me on TV the message I want to give is that I’m always in full attack mode,” she said. “And with the experience I’ve learned how to use my head in some places. But fear paralyzes your mind. … Before I was always overdoing it and now I’m playing on the borderline.”

It helps that Goggia is coached by Gianluca Rulfi, who spent seven seasons guiding Italy’s men’s speed team and the likes of Christof Innerhofer, Peter Fill and Dominik Paris, because Goggia is not one to seek advice from older teammates.

“Not much,” Merighetti said. “For the most part she does it on her own.”

Born and raised in Bergamo, Goggia’s mother teaches literature and both her father and brother are engineers. Her father is also an artist.

A student of Latin and poetry, Goggia’s recent Facebook posts have included quotations from poets Giacomo Leopardi and Constantine P. Cavafy.

When she visited Rome, Goggia made a pilgrimage to the tomb of John Keats – poetry in hand.

“I’m a skier with a literary soul,” she said.