Swiss skier Gut leads World Cup GS after 1st run
SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — Lara Gut of Switzerland held a commanding lead after the first run of the season-opening women’s World Cup giant slalom on Saturday while favorites Tina Maze of Slovenia and Tessa Worley of France struggled.
Gut clocked 1 minute, 9.26 seconds on the Rettenbach glacier to put herself in contention for her fourth career victory and first in GS.
Maze, the defending overall World Cup champion who won here last year, came 2.16 behind in sixth and Worley, the GS world champion, finished 3.10 off the lead in 17th.
Only two racers came within a second of Gut — Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany was 0.77 back in second and Anna Fenninger of Austria trailed Gut by 0.83.
Gut said she was surprised by her dominant performance as the conditions didn’t really suit her.
“There was much distance between the gates and the snow was pretty aggressive,” said Gut, who has won two super-Gs and a downhill. “It’s not easy to find the right mixture of skiing carefully and attacking. Usually I am not so good at it.”
Four-time overall champion Lindsey Vonn skipped the race and plans to start her season next month after recovering from knee surgery.
Maze started her record-breaking season last year with a convincing win in Soelden but never found her rhythm this time. She was already 0.71 behind Gut at the first intermediated time and lacked speed in the steep middle section to catch up.
“She didn’t ski,” her coach Andrea Massi said. “She didn’t get one turn right but she’s still in there. That tells you what the level is.”
American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin finished 1.39 back in fifth, while her teammate Julia Mancuso came 4.01 behind in 30th.
“I’m pleased.” said Shiffrin, who has a career-best eighth in giant slalom. “I just tried to attack the whole thing. I really like this hill so I just had some fun with it. ... I was just really determined.”
Mancuso, the 2006 Olympic champion in the discipline, was one of the big names struggling and said “it was just slow.”
“The snow was good. I guess for me I wasn’t in race mode,” Mancuso said. “It’s just a hard race. Soelden is always that strange race that doesn’t really mean much. It’s just a race in its bubble. So either you have a good day or you don’t.”
Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein started 37th and had a clean run to post the seventh-fastest time, coming off an injury-plagued season.
“I had an awesome preparation. I feel ready. I feel much better in GS,” Weirather said. “I had a pretty bad injury on my bruised right shin. ... It hurt me the whole season. Then in March that was much better and then I had my first win, so I guess that was a big thing for my last season, which didn’t go so good.”
Former overall champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch lost balance in a right turn early in her run and went off course.
The German, who finished runner-up to Maze in the overall standings last season, said she didn’t want to put much weight on the first race of the season.
“I didn’t come far but my skiing felt good,” Hoefl-Riesch said. “It’s better for me to take some risks than hold back and finish two, three seconds off the lead. I’ve watched the other girls and I am pretty sure I will be right there with the best in GS this season.”
According to Hoefl-Riesch, Gut was the only racer who didn’t hold back.
“As it’s the first race, many skiers were too cautious. Lara Gut didn’t do that, she raced like in training last week,” said Hoefl-Riesch, who is yet to win a GS in her career. “I thought (Maze) would be very strong again. Last season she was incredibly dominant. It’s good for me to see that she is beatable again.”