Switzerland

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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Figure skater, 14, lights Lausanne Youth Olympic cauldron at Opening Ceremony

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Gina Zehnder, a 14-year-old ice dancer, lit the cauldron at the Youth Olympic Opening Ceremony in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday.

“Welcome home,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a speech, noting that IOC headquarters are in Lausanne, before joining an athlete from each continent for a selfie. “Here you are in the heart of the Olympic Movement.”

Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs Opening Ceremony coverage at 8 p.m. on Thursday, followed by 13 days of competition. A full Youth Olympic TV schedule is here.

Zehnder, the youngest athlete in the Swiss delegation, isn’t the youngest person to light an Olympic cauldron. Four years ago, Norway’s 12-year-old Princess Ingrid Alexandra was the final torch bearer at the Lillehammer Youth Winter Games.

Earlier Thursday, each nation’s flag bearer marched out in the countries’ alphabetical order, with Lexie Madigan carrying the Stars and Stripes. Luger Reannyn Weiler was to carry the U.S. flag at a separate Opening Ceremony in St. Moritz, where mountain events will be held.

The Youth Winter Games feature athletes ages 14-18 in traditional Olympic sports and other events not on the traditional Winter Games program, such as monobobsled, women’s Nordic combined and ski mountaineering.

The U.S. roster of 96 athletes is here. Past U.S. Youth Winter Olympians included PyeongChang snowboard halfpipe gold medalist Chloe Kim and Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel.

The U.S. tied for the most gold medals with 10 at the last Youth Winter Games in Lillehammer. Innsbruck, Austria, hosted the first Youth Winter Olympics in 2012.

MORE: IOC details rules on political protests at Olympics

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Marco Odermatt, Swiss phenom, stamps arrival with first World Cup win

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) — Marco Odermatt’s fellow racers watched from the top as he went too straight around one turn and nearly crossed his skis before another.

They marveled at his ability to recover. They admired his capacity to stay composed.

Above all: They know this 22-year-old from Switzerland will be a factor for quite some time.

Odermatt went on a wild ride to finish the technical Birds of Prey course in 1 minute, 10.90 seconds Friday to earn his first World Cup victory. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway was second, 0.10 seconds behind, and Austrian Matthias Mayer took third.

“It was a perfect day for me, with a nearly perfect run,” said Odermatt, the youngest man to win a World Cup speed event since 1994. “I was really on the edge. I was lucky.”

Or skillful.

He nearly went out in two spots only to recover and keep on cruising to the finish line.

In doing so, Odermatt snapped Austria’s string of four straight World Cup super-G wins at Beaver Creek. He needed a run just like this, too — barely on the verge of control around several turns.

“It’s whoever is willing to take the most risk and then pull it off,” said Travis Ganong, who finished sixth for the top finish among the Americans. “Odermatt, he took way too much risk and somehow it worked out. That’s a one out of 100 run.”

Odermatt was the second racer to take the hill, which can be a benefit or a detriment. On the positive side, the snow is still fresh. On the down side, there’s no course report.

The consensus was that going that early and making that sort of mistake was a benefit for Odermatt, because he was indeed able to recover on a cleaner track.

The one thing he didn’t do was panic.

“I just didn’t want to break there and so I went full speed there and lost not so much speed,” said Odermatt, who was sure they were celebrating in his hometown of Buochs, Switzerland. “So it was possible to do a good run.”

His run earned the admiration of Kilde, who was among those watching Odermatt from the top of the course. Then again, Kilde’s been singing the praises of this new kid on the scene for a while.

This was Odermatt’s third career World Cup podium and first in speed. He took second and third places in giant slalom competitions last season. Odermatt also won four of five individual titles at the 2018 World Junior Championships in Switzerland.

“It looks so easy when he skis,” Kilde said. “Today, he really charged. I knew that was going to be really fast.”

Like Odermatt, Kilde made a tiny mistake. But he still turned in a fast time as the No. 17 racer.

“I knew,” Kilde said, “I had to charge myself …”

“And he did,” Odermatt playfully interrupted.

“… And I did,” said Kilde, who finished in a three-way tie for third place last season during the super-G at Beaver Creek. “One mistake here, and he has one mistake and together we were one and two. He’s for sure the guy for the future. He’s going to be the guy for Beaver Creek for the next 20 years.”

Mayer had a strong run despite a sore hip. He crashed in a giant slalom training session Tuesday and wasn’t sure how the hip would respond. Mayer won the opening super-G race of the season in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend.

“My hip is better,” Mayer said. “I’m pretty happy about third place.”

For German racer Thomas Dressen, this was about getting comfortable on the course again and not so much his place (27th). He crashed a year ago in Beaver Creek and tore the ACL in his right knee. Dressen, who won the downhill in Lake Louise last weekend, feels even more comfortable ahead of Saturday’s downhill.

“It’s not the course’s fault that I crashed. It’s mine,” Dressen said. “If you’re honest with yourself, you can learn from your mistakes. I like the course a lot. It’s one of my favorites.”

There were several “DNFs” — did not finish — on the technical course, including the first racer of the day, Adrien Theaux of France.

“Today was especially challenging with the set,” Ganong said. “Really high speeds into some big fall-away turns, super bumpy. … It was fun.”

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