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.”
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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