Lara Gut

Lara Gut-Behrami gets first win in 2 years; Mikaela Shiffrin’s lead shrinks

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Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami, the last woman other than Mikaela Shiffrin to win a World Cup overall title, notched her first World Cup race victory in two years on Friday. Meanwhile, chasers gained on the absent Shiffrin in this season’s overall standings.

Gut-Behrami led a host-nation one-two in a downhill in Crans-Montana. She was followed by downhill standings leader Corinne Suter (eight tenths behind) and Austrian Stephanie Venier (.92 back). Full results are here.

Shiffrin has not raced since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Slovakian Petra Vlhova was fourth on Friday for her best career World Cup speed race finish. Vlhova, Shiffrin’s top rival in slalom the last few seasons, moved to 104 points behind Shiffrin in the World Cup overall standings through 27 of 40 scheduled races.

Race winners receive 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place skier. The season runs through March 22.

American Breezy Johnson was fifth, tying her best World Cup finish in nearly two years. Italian Federica Brignone tied for seventh, moving 77 points shy of Shiffrin’s lead.

Vlhova or Brignone can pass Shiffrin with similar finishes in Saturday’s downhill (4:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold) and a podium in Sunday’s combined (7:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel and Gold).

Gut-Behrami, a 25-time World Cup race winner, was the world’s top skier in 2016. She was in second place to Shiffrin in the 2017 World Cup overall standings when she ruptured her left ACL and sustained meniscus damage. Shiffrin since won the last three overall titles.

Friday marked Gut-Behrami’s first win since Jan. 21, 2018. She recently went nearly one year between podium finishes.

“Sometimes, I’ve been struggling with myself and putting myself under pressure because I wanted to do it again,” Gut-Behrami said. “Then I started thinking, and then I made mistakes.”

Suter, who came into the season without a World Cup win, leads the downhill season standings by 120 points. She can clinch her first World Cup discipline title in Saturday’s penultimate downhill.

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MORE: Alpine skiing season TV schedule

Lindsey Vonn gets bad luck, Mikaela Shiffrin misses gate in super-G

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Neither Lindsey Vonn nor Mikaela Shiffrin made the podium, but Swiss Lara Gut notched her first victory Sunday since a major knee injury.

Gut, the 2016 World Cup overall champion who tore an ACL in February, topped a World Cup super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, by .14 over Italian Johanna Schnarf.

Austrian Nicole Schmidhofer was third. Full results are here.

Vonn dropped to sixth, .37 behind, dropped a couple of expletives in the finish corral and posted on social media afterward that she caught her strongest wind gust in more than 400 career starts.

“I’m not mad; I’m just a little bit frustrated,” Vonn said. “Sometimes this happens in ski racing where the races aren’t really fair. The wind comes. The light comes. The clouds come. But I tried my best. I’m happy with my skiing. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t very lucky today. Hopefully I can get some of this luck and take it with me to February [and the Olympics] and get some better conditions.”

Vonn placed second and first in downhills in Cortina on Friday and Saturday, confirming she’s a favorite to become the oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist next month.

Shiffrin was off her line early in Sunday’s run and eventually missed a gate, screaming out of frustration.

She is still cutting her teeth in the speed events of downhill and super-G and was third and seventh in the previous two races.

“The problem was with my [pre-race course] inspection, and I’m not exactly sure what we can do for me to be better prepared for super-Gs,” Shiffrin said, according to The Associated Press. “One of my biggest issues right now is still switching from the timing of downhill turns to super-G turns.”

Laurenne Ross became the sixth U.S. female Alpine skier to qualify for the Olympic team thanks to a previous top-10. Ross, the second-best U.S. speed racer behind Vonn last season, came back from blowing out her right knee in a March 27 crash.

The World Cup moves to Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday for a giant slalom, where Shiffrin will be favored (full Alpine season broadcast schedule here).

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Winter Olympics

Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn top women’s Alpine skiing season storylines

Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin
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Three storylines for the Olympic women’s Alpine skiing season ahead of Saturday’s World Cup opener in Soelden, Austria …

1. Second time would be sweeter for Mikaela Shiffrin

Shiffrin certainly deserved last year’s World Cup overall title, awarded to the skier who accumulates the most points across all disciplines, but she was quoted in Austrian media this month intimating that it wasn’t wholly fulfilling.

That’s because the previous overall winners — Swiss Lara Gut, Austrian Anna VeithLindsey Vonn and Slovenian Tina Maze — all raced partial seasons, largely due to injuries. In Maze’s case, it was a single farewell race into retirement.

Shiffrin’s hope for stronger competition this season is already dented. Gut and Veith are sitting out Saturday’s opener. They’re targeting returns from last winter’s knee surgeries in late November or early December.

(Update: Gut surprisingly announced she will race Saturday in an early return from tearing an ACL and suffering meniscus damage in February.)

Vonn plans to race in October for the first time in five years, but she downplayed overall title aspirations in recent seasons. The 33-year-old emphasized quality over quantity in limiting her race schedule, chasing the career World Cup wins record by focusing on downhills and super-Gs.

Then on Sunday, Slovenian Ilka Stuhec, the surprise runner-up to Shiffrin last season, suffered a torn ACL that will likely keep her out the entire year.

Italian Sofia Goggia, who made her first World Cup podium last season (and then 12 more), may be the most promising challenger.

MORE: Shiffrin chases higher goals as second Olympics approach

2. Lindsey Vonn’s eight-year wait

Incredibly after all of her injuries, Vonn is arguably the Olympic downhill favorite at the moment with world downhill champ Stuhec’s ACL tear.

This season is all about the Olympics for Vonn, who spent the previous two seasons chasing (when healthy) something else — the Word Cup wins record.

She managed to reach 77, nine shy of retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s total. Vonn is capable of breaking the record this season (she won nine races in 2015-16 and eight in 2014-15), but that would be cake icing at this point. She plans to go after Stenmark in 2018-19.

Vonn can set a bunch of age records this season, including oldest female World Cup downhill race winner and oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist.

But most of all she will be motivated by having to watch the Sochi Games on TV, unable to defend her emotional downhill title from 2010.

MORE: Vonn’s bid to race men delayed

3. Comebacks, comebacks, comebacks

Other than Shiffrin and Vonn, just about every big name is a question mark because of major injuries. We mentioned Gut and Veith, but also Julia Mancuso.

Mancuso, who owns four Olympic medals, last raced March 2015. She missed the last two seasons due to hip problems but is expected to finally return the first week of December.

Mancuso has an acumen for turning it on for the Olympics — she made the podium in 2006, 2010 and 2014 with scant World Cup success those seasons.

Shiffrin’s closest slalom challenger last season — Slovak Veronika Velez Zuzulova — underwent right knee surgery in September that could keep the 33-year-old out until December.

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MORE: Mancuso narrows focus in comeback