Lara Gut

Lara Gut takes Beaver Creek downhill; Americans struggle (video)

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Switzerland’s Lara Gut won the first downhill of the World Cup season, while the Americans and international stars struggled at Beaver Creek, Colo., on Friday.

Gut, who also won the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 26, sped down the new Raptor course in 1 minute, 41.26 seconds, which was .47 of a second better than Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather. Italian Elena Fanchini was third, another half-second back (full results at bottom).

Gut won two World Championships silver medals in 2009 at age 17. She missed the 2010 Olympics after dislocating her right hip in a September 2009 training crash. This is her best form since returning for the 2010-11 season.

“When I came into the World Cup, I was 17, and I was fast; everything was so easy,” Gut said on NBCSN. “The last two years, I was really working hard on my skiing. … Now, I think, it’s working.”

The Beaver Creek World Cup continues with a super-G on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Live Extra) and a giant slalom on Sunday (2:30, NBC, NBC Live Extra).

The U.S. contingent, without injured Lindsey Vonn, surprisingly struggled after a stellar 2012-13 downhill season.

Stacey Cook, who won one of the training runs Wednesday, was the top American in 19th. Three-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso was 20th, her worst World Cup downhill finish in nearly two years.

“It’s a really steep and tricky downhill for the start of the season,” Mancuso said on NBCSN. “I really feel like I just need a little bit more time. Downhill’s been tough for me the last few years.”

Laurenne Ross, who made one World Cup podium last season, was 22nd. Leanne Smith missed a gate late in her run and did not finish.

The world’s best all-around skiers didn’t fare too much better.

German Maria Hoefl-Riesch, the 2011 World Cup overall champion, was seventh. Reigning World Cup overall champion Tina Maze was 16th, continuing her slow start to the season with her worst downhill in nearly one year.

Beaver Creek Downhill

1. Lara Gut (SUI) 1:41.26
2. Tina Weirather (LIE) 1:41.73
3. Elena Fanchini (ITA) 1:42.24
4. Fabienne Suter (AUT) 1:42.30
5. Anna Fenninger (AUT) 1:42.39
6. Fraenzi Aufdenblatten (SUI) 1:42.46
7. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) 1:42.49
8. Andrea Fishbacher (AUT) 1:42.55
9. Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden (SUI) 1:42.75
10. Regina Sterz (AUT) 1:42.92
19. Stacey Cook (USA) 1:43.49
20. Julia Mancuso (USA) 1:43.71
22. Laurenne Ross (USA) 1:43.86
42. Julia Ford (USA) 1:45.09
44. Jacqueline Wiles (USA) 1:45.39
DNF. Leanne Smith (USA)

Vonn optimistic for Lake Louise after super-G training

Mikaela Shiffrin wins Aspen World Cup slalom

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With a slalom win today in Aspen, Colo., Mikaela Shiffrin broke some of the barriers she had been chasing.

“I don’t know if the stars will ever align like that again,” Shiffrin said in a media conference after being told she won with the biggest margin of victory in the history of women’s slalom since 1968: 3.07 seconds. “I don’t think [my competitors] are going to let me get away with three seconds ever again.”

En route to her fourth consecutive slalom World Cup title – which would tie the record for the most with Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider from 1992-95 – she became the first female skier to win four World Cup slalom races in a row since Austria’s Marlies Schild did it in the 2011-12 season.

In addition, Shiffrin became the first female skier from the U.S. to win a slalom World Cup race in Aspen. And she’s now tied with France’s Perrine Pelen for sixth overall with total slalom World Cup victories.

“I was pissed after I made that ridiculous mistake yesterday,” Shiffrin said to media, referencing yesterday’s giant slalom crash. Both her and Lindsey Vonn crashed and did not finish in Aspen’s giant slalom. “I tried to use that anger today.”

Shiffrin called the mistake a “brainfart” and Vonn dismissed it because “giant slalom isn’t [her] strongest event.”

But, Shiffrin added that she already has her mind set on tomorrow, where she races slalom again, on NBC at 3 p.m. ET. The complete of the Olympic sports schedule is here.

“I just as quickly have to go back and settle in,” she said. “Tomorrow is a new race. I have to find a different motivation and try to take the same mentality and keep fighting.”

Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova was second behind Shiffrin, followed by Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter.

By finishing behind Shiffrin in Aspen, Zuzulova extends her slalom World Cup podium finish streak to four.

Hansdotter has the second-most second place World Cup slalom finishes at 13 total, including today’s race. Only Pernilla Wiberg, of Sweden, has more with a total of 14.

MORE: Shiffrin, Vonn discuss friendship and rivalry

Fencing great Valentina Vezzali fails to qualify for Rio 2016

Mario Monti, Valentina Vezzali
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TURIN, Italy (AP) – Six-time Olympic champion fencer Valentina Vezzali has failed to qualify for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Games.

The 41-year-old Vezzali was eliminated in the second round of the foil event at the Trofeo Inalpi meet Saturday, while Italian teammate Arianna Errigo reached the semifinals and gained the necessary points to qualify.

Vezzali won at least one gold at the last five Olympics in either individual or team foil. She has a total of nine Olympic medals and 25 at world championships.

Her second son was born in 2013, the year in which she also became a member of Italy’s parliament.

Vezzali told the Gazzetta dello Sport this week that “I had another son and it was really difficult to come back. … I don’t think I have anything else to prove.”

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