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

Lara Gut
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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

Germany denied gold-medal sweep of world luge championships races

Jonas Muller
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Austrian Jonas Müller denied Germany’s bid to sweep all nine races at the world luge championships.

Müller, a 25-year-old who was not on Austria’s Olympic team, won the men’s event by .104 of a second over German Max Langenhan at worlds in Oberhof, Germany, combining times from two runs. Another Austrian, 2018 Olympic champion David Gleirscher, earned bronze.

Germany won the first seven of eight singles and doubles races on Friday and Saturday, including sprint events that aren’t on the Olympic program. After its defeat in the men’s event, it won the team relay to close the championships later Sunday with golds in eight of the nine events.

Its last gold-medal sweep at worlds was in 2013, when there were four events on the program. Germany also swept the Olympic golds in 2014 and 2022.

Müller, the 2020 World silver medalist who dropped out of Austria’s top three men last season, said his sled broke in a crash at a World Cup two weeks ago in Sigulda, Latvia.

“I flew home the next day and unpacked the old sled again,” he said, according to the International Luge Federation. “As you can see, the old sled doesn’t seem so bad.”

While Germany has dominated women’s and doubles events, this marked the third consecutive worlds with a non-German men’s winner, its longest drought since the mid-1990s.

Johannes Ludwig retired after winning last year’s Olympics. Felix Loch, a two-time Olympic champion and record six-time world champion, placed fourth on Sunday.

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Mikaela Shiffrin barely denied in first bid to tie Alpine skiing World Cup wins record

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin was denied in her first bid to tie the Alpine skiing World Cup wins record by six hundredths of a second.

Shiffrin, trying to tie Ingemar Stenmark‘s 86 World Cup victories, led by 67 hundredths over German Lena Duerr after the first of two slalom runs in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic, on Sunday.

The last racer to go in the second run, Shiffrin’s lead over Duerr dwindled as she neared the finish line. It was down to 15 hundredths at the last intermediate split with 10 seconds left of the course.

Shiffrin crossed the finish line, saw that she ended up six hundredths behind, opened her mouth, rocked her head and put her hand to her helmet. It was the closest slalom defeat of her career, which has included a record 52 World Cup slalom victories.

“I felt like the first run I skied really well, and I actually skied quite well in the second as well,” Shiffrin told Austrian broadcaster ORF. “Six tenths is not actually so much time. … Lena has been strong all season, and she deserves to win.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Duerr, 31, earned her second World Cup win, 10 years to the day after her first. Shiffrin won 82 World Cup races in that span.

“It took me a while,” Duerr said. “Crazy that today’s the day.”

Shiffrin’s next bid to tie Stenmark, the Swedish legend of the 1970s and ’80s, won’t be until March.

Next up are the world championships in France, starting Feb. 6, which are separate from the World Cup.

Shiffrin’s next planned World Cup races are either speed races in Kvitfjell, Norway, the first weekend of March or a giant slalom and slalom in Stenmark’s home nation at Åre, Sweden, from March 10-11 ahead of her 28th birthday on March 13.

“I don’t have any expectations going into it,” said Shiffrin, whose first World Cup win came in Åre in 2012. “It’s just like every race of the season, just trying to take it all in and enjoy my skiing, enjoy when the other athletes are skiing better, too, because there’s always some to learn from that.”

Shiffrin began last week tied with Lindsey Vonn for second place on the career wins list at 82. She then rattled off victories on Wednesday and Thursday in giant slaloms in Kronplatz, Italy, and Saturday in the first slalom in Spindleruv Mlyn, site of her World Cup debut in 2011 at age 15.

She has 11 wins in 23 starts this season, her best campaign since her record 17-win 2018-19 season.

She did break one record on Sunday — clinching her seventh World Cup slalom season title with two races left in the discipline.

She broke her tie with Vreni Schneider, a Swiss star of the 1980s and ’90s, for most women’s World Cup slalom season titles. Stenmark won eight and is tied with Vonn (downhill) for the most season titles in any discipline.

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