Alpine Young Guns: Sofia Goggia
By Michael Mastarciyan
One of the luxuries of the high-speed-techno-rich world we live in today is the ability to flick a computer or tablet on, and within seconds, familiarize yourself with someone or something you didn’t really know much about before logging onto the internet.
Not long after choosing the candidates for our summer Alpine Young Guns series (volume 3), I type the name “Sofia Goggia” into Google, and click the images button for a quick peek at one of Italy’s top rising alpine stars. I’m immediately struck by the first image I see – it’s a very familiar face and look I’ve seen somewhere before – a half-length portrait of a young woman with long flowing hair, and piercing eyes oozing serenity, and dare I say it, mystery. Before you can say Leonardo da Vinci, I make the connection; Sofia Goggia is a dead ringer for the Mona Lisa!
Yes, I know what you’re thinking looking at the headline images accompanying this story. Miss Goggia is wearing a white speed suit, ski gloves and cuddling a pair of Atomics with goggles around neck in the photo – a far cry from the Renaissance garb of Leonardo’s most famous model. But look at her glance; it is eerily similar to that of La Gioconda (aka Mona Lisa). I even do the classic Mona Lisa eye-test, shifting around the room to see if her eyes are following me around from different angles. I shift to the left and right of the screen on my MacBook and La Bergamasca (that’s what the Italian media affectionately calls the 20-year-old from Bergamo) is looking directly at me, no matter where I position myself…try it yourself if you don’t believe me.
There are other similarities too. While gazing at the picture of the four-time Europa Cup winner (La Bergamasca has won in DH, GS and Super-Combined) I immediately notice the slightly turned-to-one-side stance, the high-renaissance pyramidal composition of her pose, with folded hands just like the Mona Lisa at the bottom of the picture pulling your eyes up to the top of the frame to meet her eyes – eyes with a serene confidence that tell you she knows exactly what it takes to kick butt down icy slopes – coincidentally just like the ones behind the Mona Lisa in Leonardo’s masterpiece.
While the canvas that is Miss Goggia’s alpine career still doesn’t have much paint on it, her accomplishments so far seem to be pointing to a ski racing masterpiece of her very own.
With 19 Europa Cup top-fives since January 2012 (four firsts, four seconds, and one third place finish), a Europa Cup DH title last season, as well as 2nd place in the overall EC standings, and a spectacular fourth place in Super-G, and a seventh place in Super-Combined at the recent Schladming World Championships, La Bergamasca is working hard preparing for the upcoming World Cup season. We caught up with her recently and threw her a few questions about the art of ski racing and a few other things that might be helpful in a painting a fuller picture of one of Italy’s top young alpine talents…
MM: Alright Sofia, the big question, the Mona Lisa, have you ever seen it in person at The Louvre in Paris?
SG: No, I have never been to Paris.
MM: Looking at your photo next to La Giaconda, do you see any resemblance at all?
SG: Truthfully, I don’t see any resemblance to her…oh wait; now I see the position of the hands ahahahaha!
MM: Are you a fan of art? Painting, sculpture? Abstract, modern, impressionist?
SG: Yes I am, but not for all kinds of art, just some, like photography, which I would have to say, is my favourite art form.
MM: La Giaconda lives in Paris, La Bergamasca lives in Bergamo, very close to Milan. Do you visit Milan very often?
SG: Yes, sometimes I go to Milan, mostly for the great sushi restaurants that the city has to offer!
MM: Which city is more stylish - Paris or Milan?
SG: I’ll have to answer that one after I visit Paris!
MM: Living so close to Milan, are you a fashionista? Do you have a favourite designer?
SG: No, not really. I’m a pretty casual dresser. I like comfy, sporty clothes that are easy to wear most of all.
MM: Okay enough about art and fashion...let's talk skiing. You made a big splash at World Champs in Schladming with a 4th in Super-G and a 7th in Super Combined - were you expecting these amazing results given it was your first World Championships?
SG: No, absolutely not! It was incredible and amazing!
MM: You came very close to the podium in the Super-G race (5-hundredths off a bronze medal) which was called early due to poor weather and darkness. You didn't take a medal away, but told reporters afterward it was still very rewarding. Is this correct?
SG: I don't think I missed the medal due to weather and darkness. I think I missed the podium because I turned too much during the last section. It was definitely very rewarding. I mean, first speed race at the elite level and a top five to show for it…sometimes I think about that and I’m still speechless.
MM: Is it true that during the long weather delay that day, you actually were on your way back to the hotel, and when the race was called back on you had a strudel before returning to the course?
SG: Yes. I was at the restaurant at the top of the mountain with Klara Krizova. At 14:20 I was sure we wouldn't be racing. As I was going out of the restaurant a Polish coach told me: "We're racing!" I really didn’t believe it, so I went back in, had a strudel and then quickly got prepared for the race when I found out he wasn’t joking!
MM: On a side note...is strudel your favourite dessert? What about tiramisu, you are Italian after all?
SG: I can really say strudel is one of my favourites! Especially when it’s not too sweet and has a lot of apples in it! Tiramisu is also really good, but I’ve only had it once in my life, in the best Tiramisumeria in Rome, "Bar Pompi" with Sabrina Fanchini...believe it or not. Tiramisu is great, but too sweet for my taste!
MM: Some members of the Italian media criticized your coach for naming you to the speed squad for World Championships because you had never skied in a speed event at the World Cup level. How did this make you feel? Did it motivate you at all?
SG: I didn’t pay attention to the criticism. My coach took on a great responsibility when he nominated me for the World Championships in Schladming and it was his decision in the end. I thanked him many times for nominating me, but every time I said thank-you he replied: “You can say thanks by skiing as fast as you can during the race.” I think he risked a lot by choosing me, but his decision paid off in the end!
MM: Your coach Raimund Plancker told reporters afterward that you have a "strong personality" and don't get nervous during races. Is this true?
SG: Yes, I think I have a strong personality, I know what I want, and the way to get it too. During races I’m usually pretty relaxed, but if I am nervous I don’t hide it.
MM: Coach Plancker also told the media, very recently, that despite being a rookie on the team, he thinks you are going to be very competitive this year. Do you think you’ll be a podium threat this year?
SG: I don't know, but I hope so. I think I can be dangerous, but I know I still need lots of experience to succeed, and, as my coach says, I need to take it step by step, so we’ll see.
MM: Coach Plancker also described you as very competitive, and enthusiastic no matter what you are doing - is this accurate?
SG: Yes, this is true! In every situation I try to give my best, no matter what!
MM: What's the biggest lesson you learned from your experiences in Schladming?
SG: With a clear head you can do great things…never think about the result, focus only on your performance and hopefully the end result will be a great one!
MM: Did you gain any confidence from your experience in Schladming?
SG: Guess so!!!!
MM: You've been tearing it up on the Europa Cup circuit since January 2012 with nineteen top-fives (which include nine podiums, four of which were victories) in every discipline except slalom; do you consider yourself an all-rounder?
SG: "All-rounder" is a really big word. At first you must win in one discipline, and so on. I’d prefer to do this rather than being 30th in four different disciplines!
MM: Do you have a favourite discipline?
SG: I don't have a favourite discipline because my favourite is whichever one I’m going the fastest in during any given period. But if I have to choose one, I think it’s Super-G. After inspection, there is just one run. Instinct, speed, technique, and tactics all have to work together at the same time for success. It’s always "make it or break it" in Super-G and I like that. Then again, I do also really love downhill ...so I guess I still have to decide between those two!
MM: You've only skied GS on the World Cup circuit (4 races). Any plans to race in the other disciplines this upcoming season?
SG: Yes, I will surely ski Super-G and Super-Combined because I’m in the top 30 in the WCSL thanks to Schladming. In downhill I have the nominal place because of my Europa Cup results from last year when I finished first in the DH rankings. And I think I will race GS too!
MM: You've had 3 knee surgeries and had to cut your stay in Quebec during World Junior Ski Championships short because of a leg injury. How are you feeling right now in terms of physical health?
SG: I'm fine right now!
MM: I read a story about you that said you listen to Justin Bieber before races. Is this correct? Are you a Belieber?
SG: WHAT!? I NEVER SAID THAT!!!! I just wrote about Bieber as a joke on Francesca Marsaglia and Camilla Borsotti's Facebook wall and some journalist saw that and took it to be serious. If you must know, I am a “Springsteener” (Bruce Springsteen fan) not a Belieber!!!
MM: You also apparently like listening to Mozart, according to reports. Is this true?
SG: Yes, classical music helps you to relax sometimes! Mozart, Vivaldi....but my favourite is Tchaikovsky with his Violin Concert. Lovely!
MM: I also read that you love to read history books, especially one's about Napoleon. Is this true and how did that interest get started?
SG: No, I don't read history books...I am a Ken Follet fan. I’m also into Swedish crime thrillers by authors like Camilla Lackberg and Stieg Larsson. Larsson was absolutely the best! And about Napoleon, the most I ever said about him was that he is my favourite historical character.
MM: Bieber, Mozart, Napoleon sounds like you're a Renaissance Woman...kind of like another famous Renaissance Woman named La Giaconda...see any resemblance now?
SG: No, I still don't see any. Sorry!
MM: How have you been enjoying your summer? Any holidays, beach trips?
SG: I spent the first week of May on vacation. I’ve spent the rest of it so far doing dry land training as well as on-snow training. Before we go to Ushuaia I’ll spend one week between the beautiful sea of Sardinia and a "baita" that my father built in Valle D'Aosta.
No phone, no electricity, no social activity, you have the shower in the river....the place to be!!!!
MM: In a few short months you will be competing against the best skiers in the world on the White Circus. Are you excited for your first full season on the World Cup tour?
SG: Yes I am, and I hope to enjoy it !!!