Lara Gut rebounds with windy super-G victory
Switzerland veteran regains form ahead of Sochi
Swiss skier Lara Gut mastered a windy super-G Sunday to win the final World Cup speed race before the Sochi Olympics in Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy.
For her fifth victory of this campaign — but the first since Lake Louise, Alta., in early December — Gut clocked one minute, 27.81 seconds down the Olympia delle Tofane course.
Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein finished second, 0.12 seconds behind, and Maria Hoefl-Riesch was third, 0.61 back, to maintain her lead in the overall World Cup standings.
"It's important to think about skiing and not the result," Gut said. "At the start of the season there was talk about the overall and all those things and I couldn't think about skiing.
"I just have to ski the way I can, then I can have a good result," Gut added. "Today it was just me and the slope."
This race concluded a run of four speed events in four days, and Weirather was a contender each day. Her results were fourth, second, third and second.
"I'm proud of my consistency and the ability to perform well in every race," said Weirather, the daughter of champion skiers Hanni Wenzel and Harti Weirather. "That's something new for me."
A combination of strong wind and a tough course, set by Tina Maze's coach, Mauro Pini, led to 19 racers failing to finish.
Light was also a factor, as the sun ducked in and out of clouds.
Olympic champion Andrea Fischbacher of Austria crashed and slammed into the safety netting but got right back up and skied down without major injury.
Maze, who won Saturday's downhill, finished fifth.
The tailwind was so strong when Hoefl-Riesch came down that the German was nearly blown off course over the final jump.
Hoefl-Riesch landed outside the blue lines painted onto the snow to help guide skiers and had to rapidly change direction to clear the last gate.
"I was just happy when I went over the finish line because it was a hard fight for me on the bottom," Hoefl-Riesch said.
Other skiers were slowed by a headwind as the conditions constantly shifted, at times making the banner hanging over the finish line billow in the wind.
When the winds finally calmed down, it enabled Marusa Ferk of Slovenia to finish 11th with the No. 49 bib. Chemmy Alcott of Britain, the next skier down, placed 23rd for her first World Cup points since rejoining the circuit this week after leg surgery.
The top Americans were Stacey Cook in 13th and Julia Mancuso in 16th.
In the overall standings, Hoefl-Riesch holds a 128-point lead over Weirather.
In the super-G ranks, Gut leads by 38 points over Weirather with only one more super-G remaining - at the World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, in March.
The women's circuit moves to Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, for a giant slalom and slalom next weekend - the final events before the Sochi Games open Feb. 7.
Gut will be a threat in multiple events in Sochi. She said she's most excited about giant slalom but she'll also be a contender in downhill and super-combined.
"I'm going to try to be like Bode (Miller) in the super-combined at the Olympics," Gut said.