Lara Gut-Behrami edges Mikaela Shiffrin in closest giant slalom in world champs history

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Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami won the closest giant slalom in world Alpine skiing championships history, prevailing by two hundredths of a second over Mikaela Shiffrin, who now has a medal of every color in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Austrian Katharina Liensberger took bronze, .09 behind Gut-Behrami.

Shiffrin, the first-run leader and last skier to go in the second run, swung from .08 up on Gut-Behrami to .14 behind to just missing a seventh career world title when she crossed the finish line.

“I’m actually pretty excited, because the last three [World Cup] GS races, I was losing a lot more time in the second run,” said Shiffrin, who was fourth, fourth and sixth in the last three World Cup races in GS, which she won at the 2018 Olympics. “Getting even a silver and being so close and hanging onto a medal … it was really not guaranteed, so that’s pretty cool.

“That was just the best that I could do [in the second run.”

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Gut-Behrami earned her third medal at these worlds, following a super-G gold and downhill bronze, to become the most decorated Swiss woman in world championships history. It’s been the best week of an undulating career.

Gut-Behrami arrived at age 17 with a pair of world silver medals in 2009. She won the World Cup overall title in 2016 before tearing her left knee at the 2017 Worlds. She came to Cortina as the most successful World Cup skier (30 victories) without an Olympic or world title.

“When Mikaela crossed the finish line, I thought she had won,” Gut-Behrami said. “I’ve been struggling a lot in the last years, but this year I was coming back step by step.”.

Shiffrin also earned her third medal, after super-G bronze and combined gold, to extend her streak to medals in her last nine world championships races dating to 2015.

Shiffrin continued an impressive world championships in the middle of a challenging World Cup season after going 300 days between races following her father’s death last Feb. 2 and an early autumn back injury.

She came to worlds ranked third in the World Cup in slalom, fifth in giant slalom and without any starts in downhill and super-G.

Now she’s on 10 world championships medals going into the finale, Saturday’s slalom, where she’s the four-time defending world champion.

“It’s already been incredibly successful,” Shiffrin said of Cortina.

American Nina O’Brien was in second place after the first run, despite having a best World Cup finish of ninth in 45 starts. She led as the penultimate skier in the second run before a late mistake dropped her to 10th.

Slovakian Petra Vlhova, the defending world GS champion, was 12th. She was out of it after trailing by 1.17 seconds after the opening run.

Marta Bassino of Italy, the world’s top-ranked GS skier, finished 13th. Bassino took herself out of gold-medal contention by placing 15th in the opening run, 1.54 seconds slower than Shiffrin.

Another Italian, Federica Brignone, the world’s top GS skier last season, skied out in the first run.

Worlds continue Friday with the men’s giant slalom, where Frenchman Alexis Pinturault is the favorite.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”