CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) — With a name like the wind and a hometown called Victor, it seems only natural that Breezy Johnson is a world-class downhill skier.
The American’s motto, “Like the wind,” is printed on top of her helmet.
“When I tell people my name is Breezy at the coffee shop or whatever they always kind of look at me funny,” said Johnson, who is from Victor, Idaho.
“So I usually say ‘Breezy,’ and when I get that look I say, ‘Like the wind.’ And then they totally get it,” she said. “‘Ski like the wind’ is my thing.”
So far this season, Johnson has been doing just fine at meeting her own expectations.
She 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 was fifth.
What’s more is that Sofia Goggia, the leader of the discipline standings and the winner of four straight downhills, is out injured for the rest of the season.
That means Johnson has a chance to become the first American to claim the season-long downhill title since Lindsey Vonn won the last of her eight downhill crystal globes in 2016.
It also means that Johnson is one of the top medal favorites for the downhill at the world championships on Saturday.
“I’ve said it all along that one of my goals this season was to win a medal at world championships and that’s still definitely true,” Johnson said.
“I hope that at the end of this nobody puts a little asterisk on whoever wins, saying, ‘Well, Sofia wasn’t there.’ Because unfortunately, as we all know, injury is part of the sport and we wish Sofia the best and we want her back but the show must go on.”
At 25, Johnson has already recovered from two serious injuries. She tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in September 2018 and missed the entire 2018-19 season. Then the following summer she tore two more ligaments in her left knee and didn’t return to the circuit until midway through last season.
“Four months, then another six months where I was just, ‘Eat, sleep, recovery.’ I slept with my knees on bolsters for like two months and then three months, respectively,” Johnson said. “I highly recommend someone does that for a single night — let alone three months worth of nights. It was really tough.”
But Johnson carries a confidence that helped her push through those tough times. Confidence that she says she learned from Vonn.
“(Vonn) walked into every venue and every season like, ‘If you break my leg I will still win. If you give me a head wind I will still win. If my ski falls up over my head in the middle of the run I’m just going to keep skiing and probably win.’
“So having that kind of confidence and having that willingness to go regardless of your body’s pain, what’s going on on the hill and just ski your best is something I’m always trying to take from Lindsey.”
Vonn, who holds the record of 12 wins in Cortina, retired in 2019.
“She’s with us in spirit,” Johnson said. “Part of your legacy is always the people that you leave behind in the sport — your teammates and the people that you helped to develop. I think this speed team and myself is part of the legacy for Lindsey, part of the legacy for Picabo (Street), because obviously Picabo helped create Lindsey and Julia (Mancuso).
“It’s something really that inspires me to go and do my best, because I have a lot of great idols that taught me a lot and I would like to ski well for them. As well as myself.”
Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf
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