LIENZ, Austria (AP) — French giant slalom specialist Tessa Worley finally returned to a women's World Cup podium after 11 months, winning the last GS of the calendar year on Tuesday in the absence of Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin and world champion Lara Gut-Behrami.
Six days ago, the two-time world champion had missed her first top-three result since January by eight-hundredths of a second on home snow.
“I really wanted this one," Worley said. "I was so close to the podium in Courchevel. It’s really cool.”
Racing in flat lights on the Schlossberg course, Worley held onto her first-run lead to beat defending overall champion Petra Vlhova by three-tenths of a second.
Sara Hector of Sweden, who was second after the opening run, had two costly mistakes in her final run and dropped to third, .38 behind Worley.
Italian speed specialist Sofia Goggia, who is Shiffrin’s main challenger for the overall title, finished 1.72 behind in 12th and reduced her deficit to 93 points. The American also remained in the lead of the GS standings, leading Hector by 18 points.
Shiffrin announced Monday she had tested positive for COVID-19, ruling the American out of the GS and Wednesday’s slalom, the last two races of the calendar year.
“As far as the overall globe goes, we’re just taking it day by day,” Shiffrin was quoted in a statement released by the U.S. ski team.
“Obviously, this is a blow to the points and chances there, but if we’ve learned anything this season so far, it’s that anything can happen.”
The American has won the overall title three times, from 2017-19, and missed out on the chance of a fourth straight championship after cutting short her 2019-20 season — when she was leading — following the death of her father, Jeff Shiffrin, in February 2020. She only competed in slaloms and giant slaloms last season.
“I’m just focused on getting better and getting back to racing ASAP," Shiffrin said. “Can’t worry too much about globes and titles with everything going on with COVID.”
Gut-Behrami completed a 10-day quarantine following her positive test on Dec. 17 but her tests kept coming back positive, the Swiss ski team said.
Race director Peter Gerdol and another FIS official were also missing the event following positive tests.
Worley became only the third female skier with at least 15 World Cup wins in giant slalom, after Vreni Schneider (20) and Annemarie Moser-Pröll (16).
“It was mainly about pushing every turn,” Worley said. “I know that there is a lot of girls skiing pretty fast in GS right now. I know it’s always challenging. I’m just really happy to be part of those skiers.”
The win was only Worley’s second over the past three years, though she has been in the top 10 in each of her last 11 World Cup giant slaloms.
“Skiing today was really fun, the slope was perfect and I enjoyed the challenge being in front in the first run. I feel I can trust my skiing and I’m really glad about that,” Worley said.
It was the third straight podium result for Hector, who had won her first GS in seven years last week.
“I caught a bump high up on the hill which was difficult,” Hector said. “It was not mistake-free, for sure, but fast skiing in between.”
Two elite racers who sat out the previous events with coronavirus infections returned Tuesday: Alice Robinson of New Zealand was fifth after the opening run but missed a gate shortly before finishing her second run, and slalom world champion Katharina Liensberger of Austria placed 25th.
No spectators were allowed at the race in the Lienzer Dolomites amid tight anti-coronavirus measures in Austria.
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