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Gut-Behrami edges Brignone to win season-opening World Cup giant slalom

Lara Gut-Behram Lara Gut-Behram - The Canadian Press

SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — Lara Gut-Behrami sat in the snow and leaned back against an inflatable banner in the finish area after completing her final run.

The Swiss skier only stood up and pumped her right fist after seeing that first-run leader Federica Brignone narrowly failed to beat her time.

Coming from fourth place, Gut-Behrami edged the Italian by two-hundredths of a second Saturday to win the season-opening women's World Cup giant slalom, with Mikaela Shiffrin finishing in sixth.

Gut-Behrami trailed Brignone by 0.73 after the opening leg but made up three-quarters of a second with a gutsy second run.

“I needed time to recover, I was just tired,” Gut-Behrami said. “I was happy with my race.”

The 2016 overall champion previously won the traditional season opener on an Austrian glacier in 2013 and 2016.

“I'm happy as it's my third win after 10 years,” Gut-Behrami said. "It's nice, it's an amazing slope, I really like to ski in Soelden. It was a tough one today.”

Gut-Behrami became the third skier to claim at least one women's World Cup win in 13 different seasons, after Austria's Renate Goetschl (14) and American standout Lindsey Vonn (13) accomplished that feat.

Petra Vlhova of Slovakia trailed by 0.14 in third, while the rest of the field finished more than a second off the pace.

Brignone admitted that the two-hundredths “obviously hurt.”

“What makes me most angry is my performance. I didn’t ski as well as I could. But this is sport and you have to accept it. I’m very happy with how I started the season, whereas last year I was struggling a lot,” said the Italian, who had her first of 21 career wins in Soelden eight years ago.

Brignone won the GS season title in 2019-20, when she also lifted the big crystal globe for the best skier overall. In the first run, she was a half-second faster than Olympic champion Sara Hector, who ultimately finished fourth.

Shiffrin had 0.75 to make up in the second leg, after the American had the second-fastest time at the first split before losing several tenths of a second in the second sector.

However, the American lost time with each split in her second run and trailed by 1.40 seconds.

“Some positives from the day and some things to improve, for sure,” Shiffrin said. “Of course, we are going to town going to look at the video and see what I can improve for the next GS race.”

While setting the record of 88 career World Cup wins, Shiffrin won seven giant slaloms last season including the last five.

She missed the chance to become the third skier — and the first in 25 years — to win six straight World Cup giant slaloms. Only Deborah Compagnoni with eight in 1997-98 and Ingemar Stenmark with 14 between 1978 and 1980 had more consecutive GS wins.

Giant slalom is the most competitive discipline on the women’s circuit, with no skier winning the season title in consecutive years since Anna Veith accomplished the feat in 2014-15.

After the first run, Ragnhild Mowinckel became the first skier to be disqualified under a new rule that forbids the use of the potentially harmful fluorinated wax in the pre-race preparation of skis.

Brignone's Italian teammate Sofia Goggia abruptly quit her first run to avoid a collision with a crew member, who slipped between the gates after each racer but was still moving in the course when Goggia approached.

Goggia got a rerun and the 2018 Olympic downhill champion easily qualified for the second run, and ultimately finished in 16th.

American racer Paula Moltzan was 28th after the opening run but improved 17 spots after posting the second-fastest time in the final run.

The race took place in sunny conditions under a blue sky and was visited by 15,400 spectators, a record for the women's event here. The men's GS is scheduled for Sunday.

Due to mild autumn temperatures in recent weeks, organizers had to build the race track on the glacier with snow preserved from last spring and artificial snow from 22 cannons along the slope. Light overnight snowfall also covered the rocky hill beside the race course.


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