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)