‘It’s good to be back’: Gut’s win marks return from injury
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) — With Mikaela Shiffrin dominating the World Cup circuit this season, it can seem like a distant memory when the American was locked in a tight battle with Lara Gut for last year’s title.
That’s because that contest ended prematurely when Gut ruptured her left ACL last February in a crash during slalom warmups for the combined event of her home world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Gut had surgery and missed the rest of the season. She returned at the start of this season but had recorded just two podiums results — both second-places — before winning the final super-G before next month’s Pyeongchang Olympics on Sunday.
It was Gut’s first victory since winning the downhill in Cortina almost a year ago.
“It’s good to be back — to be back winning,” Gut said. “In super-G I’ve always been fast. ... If I ski the way I can I’m always top 10.”
In a race on a shortened course that was shaped by strong winds, overcast conditions and overnight snowfall, Gut clocked 1 minute, 14.78 seconds for a 0.14-second advantage over Johanna Schnarf of Italy.
Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria finished third, 0.27 behind.
Shiffrin missed a gate midway through her run and Italian favorite Sofia Goggia hit a gate and also did not finish.
“The whole way down I skied way too direct of a line, which is really frustrating because the problem was with my inspection and I’m not exactly sure what we can do for me to be better prepared for super-Gs,” Shiffrin said. “One of my biggest issues right now is still switching from the timing of downhill turns to super-G turns.”
Still, Shiffrin holds a nearly insurmountable 876-point lead over Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein in the overall standings. Gut reclaimed the lead in the super-G ranks, 18 points ahead of Weirather.
After last year’s Cortina races, Shiffrin’s lead over Gut in the overall standings was just 80 points.
Gut won the overall title two seasons ago, which helped her erase memories of the 2014 Sochi Olympics — where she cried in disappointment after taking the bronze medal in the downhill. Gut finished the Sochi race a slim 0.10 seconds behind joint gold medalists Tina Maze of Slovenia and Swiss teammate Dominique Gisin.
“I know what it means to go to the Olympics now,” Gut said. “The first time you go to the Olympics it’s like discovering what it is and you have to tell yourself that it’s just a race. ... I’m going to try to give it something even more.”
Sunday’s win was the 24th victory of Gut’s World Cup career.
Lindsey Vonn, the record-holder in Cortina with 12 wins, was slowed by a strong gust of wind and finished sixth, 0.37 back.
“I’ve never had a gust that strong,” Vonn said. “I could barely make out the next gate and I was just hoping that I would see it at the last minute.”
Vonn started sixth and Gut was next.
“Some people obviously had it worse than others,” Vonn said.
Gut trailed Schnarf at all three checkpoints but then established her lead through the final gates.
“I didn’t have any wind, so I was fast,” Gut said.
Due to increasing wind, the race was called off after 44 of 58 skiers had started.
Thirteen skiers did not finish and there were several crashes — the worst of which involved Nadine Fest of Austria, who spun around at high speed and ended up in the safety netting. She was taken down the course on a sled and was being checked for a suspected knee injury.
Laura Pirovano of Italy also crashed heavily.
Federica Brignone, the Italian who won the previous super-G, did not start due to a fever.
Brignone will be looking to defend her victory in Tuesday’s giant slalom in nearby San Vigilio di Marebbe.
More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf