PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Italian hearts embraced Sofia Goggia on Wednesday after a golden run down a slice of South Korean mountainside won her nation its first women's downhill Olympic title.
That feat alone should be sufficient to confer on her superstar status at home, but the thrilling manner of her victory and her joyously garrulous celebrations suggest Goggia will be an enduring heroine for some time to come in her homeland.
"Mythical Sofia," the front page headline of Corriere della Sera online blared, while Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni tweeted: "The great Sofia Goggia, our first gold in the history of women's downhill."
Goggia's Pyeongchang gold eclipsed Norwegian Ragnhild Mowinckel and Lindsey Vonn's silver and bronze finishes respectively, and saw her match Zeno Colo's feat in winning the men's downhill in Oslo in 1952.
As the 25-year-old was left to describe her race in poetic terms, and share quirky anecdotes with enraptured reporters, the beaming head of Italy's National Olympic Committee (CONI) Giovanni Malago eulogised his compatriot.
"For us it is a very special day, because we won other medals but this is symbolic for us... history...
"Our country has a strong tradition in Alpine, we won men's and female... many categories... but we never won in downhill with a female. So it is the first time and so we are really happy," he enthused.
"After the super-G (in which Goggia finished 11th) we knew that a lot of things could happen," he told reporters at the foot of the mountain. "And we were afraid the same things might happen here in the downhill... but she was very strong and we are very happy."
As the garrulous Goggia talked through her triumph, Malago smiled. "She's unbelievable," he said. "How strong is her enthusiasm?
"You have seen... she is contagious." (Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)