Lindsey Vonn had to settle for bronze in what’s likely her final Olympic downhill event, eight years after she became first American woman to win the title in Vancouver.
Italian Sofia Goggia produced a stunning run to claim gold in alpine skiing’s most prestigious event.
Such was her pace, the 25-year-old’s time of in 1:39.22 was 0.47 seconds better than Vonn’s effort and 0.09 seconds faster than Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel who took silver.
Vonn and Goggia, the overall downhill World Cup leader, were among the favorites for the event, but the 33-year-old American could not match her rival’s pace.
Goggia’s gold is Italy’s third at the Games, two fewer than the US who are sixth in the medal table with a disappointing overall haul of 13 medals.
Vonn’s races again Thursday in the combined event, where she’s an outside chance to win gold.
History had beckoned for Vonn
Victory for Vonn would have made her the oldest female Olympic downhill winner in history, but Wednesday’s loss has not damaged her status as the most successful female skier of all time.
In eight injury-plagued years she has suffered nine injuries and undergone five surgeries. A knee injury kept her sidelined at the last Olympics in Sochi in 2014.
But despite lengthy absences from the slopes, the US skier has 13 more World Cup victories than any other woman in history and is five wins from equaling Ingemar Stenmark, who holds the men’s record of 86 World Cup victories.
Vonn made her Olympic debut as a 17-year-old in Salt Lake City in 2002, and after finishing sixth was lauded as a new American heroine of the sport. Multiple Olympics later she has fulfilled that early promise.
The US great still has one last chance to cap what she has said is “almost certain” to be her final Games with Olympic gold when she competes in the combined on Thursday.
It has been a difficult few months for Vonn. After she told CNN in December that she wouldn’t visit the White House should she win a medal in Pyeongchang, the veteran skier has been intermittently abused on social media.
The online abused increased on Saturday after she finished sixth in the super-G, a race won by snowboard specialist Ester Ledeky.
“I may not be as vocal right now with my opinions, but that doesn’t mean that they won. I haven’t changed my mind,” Vonn said on Saturday.