Road To The Olympic Games

Alpine Skiing

Bassino leads Brignone for Italian 1-2 finish in season-opening giant slalom

Marta Bassino led Federica Brignone for an Italian 1-2 finish in the season-opening women's World Cup giant slalom Saturday in Soelden, Austria.

Canada's Grenier 25th while teammates Gagnon, Crawford fail to qualify for 2nd run

Italy's Marta Bassino speeds down the course during an alpine ski, women's World Cup giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. Bassino won the event, ahead of fellow Italian Federica Brignone. (Marco Trovati/The Associated Press)

Clenching her first, Marta Bassino screamed for joy and shouted "Si!" after crossing the finish line.

Almost a year after her first career win, she led Federica Brignone for an Italian 1-2 finish in the season-opening women's World Cup giant slalom Saturday in Soelden, Austria.

Bassino held on to her first-run lead to beat her teammate and defending overall World Cup champion by 0.14 seconds.

"I am really proud of today and really happy about this start of the season. It's really perfect," Bassino said.

The result was a copy of her maiden triumph in the GS in Killington, Vermont, last season, when she also defeated Brignone.

"We are a perfect couple," Bassino said. "We have a great team. We worked very well this summer and I think this is the result."

Petra Vlhova posted the fastest second-run time and the Slovakian racer finished third, 1.13 off the lead.

Switzerland's Michelle Gisin was 1.30 behind in fourth, while last year's winner Alice Robinson had a costly mistake in her second run before finishing 12th.

Valérie Grenier of St. Isidore, Ont., was the top-finishing Canadian in 25th, 6.10 seconds behind Basso. It was the 23-year-old Grenier's first race since February 2019 when she broke her right tibia (shinbone), fibula (calf bone) and ankle during a downhill training run in Are, Sweden. Grenier finished a career-best 11th in the GS at Soelden in 2018.

WATCH | Canada's Marie-Michèle Gagnon eager to begin new season:

World cup and Olympic alpine ski racer Marie-Michèle Gagnon has anxiously awaited her return to the hill after COVID-19 halted the 2020 season. 3:06

Two-time Olympian Marie-Michèle Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., and Toronto's Candace Crawford did not qualify for the second run, placing 55th and 60th, respectively.

'It feels really weird' with no spectators

Three-time overall champion Mikaela Shiffrin sat out the race. The American, who won here in 2014, tweaked her back in training two weeks ago and opted to rest.

Usually, many Italian fans travel to the Tyrolean Alps to visit the season opener, but no spectators were allowed this time as one of the precautionary health and safety measures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"It feels really weird," Brignone said. "For me, Soelden is a lot of noise, a lot of people, crowd(ed), everyone is excited. But this is the compromise to begin the season and I think that is OK."

Brignone scooped the overall title last season, dethroning Shiffrin who was taking a break following the death of her father just before the remainder of the season was cancelled.

WATCH | Canada's ski team begins unprecedented season:

Ski cross, alpine and para athletes explain how they’re pivoting off a COVID-19 off-season. 13:14

The first overall World Cup champion from Italy, Brignone said she felt under pressure to cement her status in the new season.

"I love skiing but the last weeks I was not skiing like I wanted, I was getting nervous," Brignone said. "But now I feel almost relaxed. For me, it's fantastic. It's a new season and I'm here."

In the first run, Bassino dealt best with flat light on the partly foggy Rettenbach glacier to build a substantial lead of 0.58 seconds over Brignone.

Skies cleared for the second run, and although Bassino lost much of her advantage over Brignone, her win was never really in danger.

"The first run was more easy," said Bassino, adding that the second "was hard but I tried to push hard from the start gate to the finish line. I am really happy."

A men's GS on the same hill is scheduled for Sunday.

With files from CBC Sports

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