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Breezy Johnson's gonna RIP!

Breezy Johnson in the lead

Breezy Johnson is a ski racer’s ski racer. On boards at three; committed to racing shortly thereafter, her determination quickly seen by her coaches. Hundreds of FIS, Continental Cup, and other progressive level starts, then on the US National team at nineteen. Johnson’s a Speed skier—full-bore Downhiller whose Super G can improve with technical turn tuning. (She bid farewell to Giant Slalom because “the clock doesn’t lie.”) She was the world’s second best Downhiller for a month; next time she’ll hold that position longer, if not top it.

Johnson jousts within dense turmoil—exceptional Speed competitors, injury/rehab, sustaining motivation, keeping an even emotional keel; fighting to consistently elevate scoring finishes to match/exceed proven ability. Breezy’s accomplishments, IMO, seem less important than what she hasn’t done, yet. Despite having not won a WC race, she’s so close to making the End of Season DH podium for the next few years. Swirling within elite ski-racing’s yin and yang makes Breezy Johnson, IMO, an exemplar of the sport’s misery and joy.

Breezy’s strong and vibrant, you know when she’s in the region. For her IG followers she cooks, knits, dives into alpine lakes, runs mountain trails with her dog, tucks her kitty into a cat-pack and takes off with him; runs 10 miles through alpine forest to a hot spring, hangs out, runs back; can’t pass a suitable tree limb without doing pull-ups. (Per Instagram, WAWC athletes utilize trees for gymnastics, or for inverted meditation.) Notice something in this post pic? (A discreetly perched owl.) Let’s julienne carrots!

WAWC racers post rigorous workouts. Breezy’s often look particularly grueling: swinging dumbbells around from awkward twisted positions, lifting and levering a medicine ball between her ankles while hanging from a chin-up bar. (The fitness levels demanded of elite and of committed amateur athletes, in any competitive sport, are insanely high. I’ve always known that, but hadn’t realized/appreciated how much time it takes. Strength thrives via willpower.)

Thoughtful people navigate ambiguity, complication; desire vs practicality. Johnson publicly engages what’s important to her—eg. conservation, sexuality, accepted measures of competitive success. An example: article criticizing US Alpine’s 2022 Olympic performance and Breezy’s response

So about the ski racing. Breezy’s done a ton. Before full-time WC, by my count:

84 Nor-Am Cup starts, spread pretty evenly across DH,SG,GS, for 2012-2016 seasons.

77 FIS starts (a discrete category; will explain soon) mostly SG & GS for 2011- 2016 seasons.

10 Junior World Championship starts mostly DH & SG March 2014 – March 2016

15 European Cup starts DH, SG, Alpine & Super Combined January 2014 – January 2016

17 US National Championship starts mostly DH & SG; a few GS & SL March 2012 – March 2016

4 US National Jr Championships March 2013

207 starts prior to December 2016 (2017 season first full WC Speed campaign: 16 starts)

84 World Cup starts from December 2015 – March 2023 (7 starts 2016 season)

291 total starts of WC/Continental Cup/high-level development races.

7th place in 2018 Olympic DH. Not too shabby. Beat major veteran talent.

14th place PyeongChang SG. Very competitive race: 1.03 seconds behind winner.

WAWC’s Downhill is now squarely within The Sofia Goggia Era. She’s the best since Lindsey Vonn. December 2021 Breezy ran right at the top dog’s hocks.

The 2022 season kicked off with a rip-snorter at Lake Louise. 2xDH & SG. Goggia ran the table; Johnson 2nd in both Downhills, by 1.47 and 0.84. Next race Val d’Isere, Breezy missing sua Maesta by 0.27. This is what I craved: Goggia and Johnson duking it out for 10xDH over seven WC race weekends. At last! Then Breezy skipped Zauchensee with a cut knee; Sofia sat out that Sunday’s SG after a bruising DH crash.

Then a fast DH training crash at Cortina three weeks before Beijing, and Breezy’s racing season ended. Heartbroken. Right back in the rehab saddle after surgery on both knees, then on-snow training--she ran a full (17 start) 2023 Speed schedule.

Stoked for the Olympics, Breezy missing Beijing was a colossal bummer. Her absence degraded the Downhill competition. The Rock DH track welcomed her aggression on steep sections and her glide touch on the long canyon finish. A shoo-in to podium; gold if on top form and less than brilliance from anyone else. Coping with that injury alone proves her mettle. It was her third major knee procedure.

Running second best during Sofia’s prime—even for just three races—means Breezy will be right there for the next four years at least, now that her knees are sound and she ran 2023 as essentially a post-rehab strength/tuning season. On-form she’s the world’s second-best Downhiller. (Corinne Suter will dispute that.) 2022 would have been a complete breakout, expanding 2021’s stellar campaign.

Breezy Johnson will finish Top-3/4 in Downhill for the 2024 season. I hedge the rank because her closest DH peers—Sofia Goggia, Corinne Suter, Ilka Stuhec—are superb competition. Rightfully including Elena Curtoni, Mirjam Puchner, and a few others in the discipline’s top-flight cast defines Downhill’s savage competition. (Ilka is having a wonderful resurgence. Like Breezy, she’s a full-on no bullshit speed demon.)

Johnson’s gonna nail it, though. If she opens this season as she did two years before, she’ll be in the scrum all the way to 23 March at Saalbach. At the least she should be top-6 in late January and peak from there. Contenders will falter. Breezy’s due some lucky breaks, since she’s recently had crappy ones. Then perhaps a turn at Val d’Isere piped tighter than Sofia, a brow at Zauchensee landed cleaner than Corinne. A few seconds quicker over several races fetches an EOS podium.

Then we have DH’s accelerating rivalries over next 4-5 years. If Mikaela pivots from Tech to Speed; Marta ramps way up; Ester too, hopefully; Kira Weidle dialing in, Corinne and Breezy going at it. Sofia's got a couple more years, I'd say; Lara won't compete unless she's in top form; Fede and Ragnhild have some high octane left in the tank; Kajsa's gonna make a run, for sure. Ortlieb, Puchner, Flury, Wright...the post-Sofia era's gonna be a brawl.

And Breezy will squeeze in her share of full nelsons. To achieve 2024 EOS 3d/4th DH from the schedule's 11 starts, she'll pick up 1 win at least--at Cortina. This year Breezy gets the baby cow!! Then 4xpodiums, 3xT10, 2xT15, perhaps an over-zealous DNF (ski out, no crash). Which should lock in EOS 3d and maybe snatch 2nd, I'd think. And at least one race will be cancelled due to bad conditions. Re SG, hopefully she'll make EOS T15. For 2025 and 2026 my crystal ball says Worlds and Olympic DH medals. Gold would be wonderful, but everyone pulls out the stops for those races. Will have a better sense of the field then, of course. So, 5 WC DH wins spanning 2025 & 2026, 10 podiums, almost everything else T10, and an EOS 2nd 2026.

Cool cat at 80mph, iron will to overcome injury, meditative industry to knit ski caps—Breezy is a soul of big expression and of understated reckoning. She honestly expresses her pain; believes deeply in herself. She compels respect also because she’s one faster turn from triumph, and refuses to allow a mistake or bad luck keep her from making it.

I’d say so far World Cup ski racing has taken more from Breezy Johnson than she owes the sport. It’s time for her to be rewarded.

So what if the World doesn’t work that way.

Rip it, Breez.

Breezy Johnson on the podium


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