Gut-Behrami Fights Back For Victory In Soldeu

Managing only ninth place in the first run of Saturday's giant slalom, Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI) seemed to have missed a golden opportunity to make up ground on the absent Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) in the chase for the overall crystal globe.

By the end of the race, however, the Swiss star had turned the tide completely and found herself on top of the podium — and the standings.

Gut-Behrami used a second-run charge in Soldeu to win her third consecutive World Cup race and move ahead of the injured Shiffrin in the overall standings, while taking a commanding lead in the hunt for the giant slalom globe.

Despite trailing after the first run and making a big mistake at the end of her second run in the Andorran resort, Gut-Behrami triumphed by just 0.01 seconds over runner-up Alice Robinson (NZL), with A J Hurt (USA) finishing third (+0.15s).

"My first run was not what I wanted, I felt a little bit too round and maybe too passive on my skis," admitted Gut-Behrami, who didn't make major mistakes but skied cautiously and found herself 0.61 seconds off the pace.

"The second run I just tried to attack, to move forward and try to be fast on every metre on the slope. I had a big mistake on the finish, so I'm really happy that in the end it worked out."

In winning her 43rd World Cup race and overtaking Anja Paerson (SWE) to move into outright sixth place on the all-time list, the 32-year-old also won three consecutive World Cup races for the third time in her career.

But it was a victory that seemed out of reach for most of the day following her indifferent first run and then, after a sublime top half of her second run, when she fell low and late in the racing line and had to fight to make a gate with the finish in sight.

"I did a huge mistake in the finish so I thought it was over, (but) you never know what's going to happen," Gut-Behrami said.

Six skiers later, with a lead of half a second at the start gate, Robinson virtually matched Gut-Behrami's top half but also struggled in the softer snow conditions at the bottom and missed out on the victory by the narrowest margin measured in ski racing.

"It's always a bit bittersweet coming second with one hundredth (behind)," Robinson said. "For sure I'm a little bit disappointed that I couldn't get the win but a podium is still a really good result."

After winning three World Cup races as a teenager, the New Zealander has sometimes struggled to reproduce that level of skiing but now, at 22, she is arguably in career-best form, with four podiums in giant slalom so far this season.

"I think I've gotten to a point where I'm feeling a lot more consistent than I've ever felt," said Robinson. "Over different weekends, different slopes and different snow conditions, I feel like my skiing's been quite solid across the board."

Robinson's childhood friend, Hurt, has also made dramatic improvements this season and reached her second podium of the campaign.

"I was hurt all last season so I was excited to come back at all, so this is really crazy to have this," said the American, who moved up from sixth after the first run.

"Alice and I grew up skiing together in Lake Tahoe, so this was a moment we've been waiting for for a long time, so it's pretty awesome."

While the three podium finishers all moved up in the second run, first-run leader Marta Bassino (ITA) could only manage sixth, while her teammate Federica Brignone (ITA) missed a chance to make up ground in the giant slalom standings, dropping from second after the first run to fourth.

Gut-Behrami now has a 135-point victory over Brignone with two giant slalom races left, and a five-point lead lead over Shiffrin in the overall standings ahead of the American's expected return to the tour in the next week or two.

But the Swiss veteran is not looking too far ahead, especially considering that injuries have put an end to several skiers' campaigns already this season.

"The globes, they give them in March and not before," Gut-Behrami cautioned. "And I think also this season we saw that to win something it's not just skiing well, it's not just your technique, it's about being healthy and staying safe.

"My first priority is to come to the end of the season, and sometimes we forget that. It's not always talking about points or wins, it's more about skiing great and staying safe."

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