Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy) (AFP) – Former overall World Cup winner Lara Gut put her injury nightmare of the past year behind her claiming victory in the final Super G before the Winter Olympics at Cortina d’Ampezzo on Sunday.
The Swiss alpine skier stormed to victory in 1min 14.78sec to beat Italian Johanna Schnarf by 0.14sec and Austrian Nicole Schmidhofer by 0.27sec to collect her 24th career victory and 12th in Super-G.
The 26-year-old Gut showed she was back in top form, defying the difficult conditions in a race shortened because of strong gusts and overnight snow in the Italian Dolomites.
US star Lindsey Vonn was caught by one gust and could only manage sixth fastest at 0.37sec on the Olympia delle Tofane piste where she holds a record 12 wins.
“It’s good to be back winning,” said Gut after her first success since the downhill in Cortina a year ago.
“I know what it means going to the Olympics, and I’m going to try and give something even more (in Pyeongchang).”
Gut ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during the world championships in St. Moritz last year. She was out for eight months and lost her overall World Cup title to American Mikaela Shiffrin.
She described the frustrations endured as she pushed to make a comeback in time for the Olympics.
“I had to find the balance between being patient and pushing forward,” she explained. “Super G is more instinct, I’ve always been fast in Super G, I’ve had more ups and downs in donwhill.”
Pyeongchang will be the second Olympics for Gut who missed Vancouver 2010 because of a hip injury but took bronze in the downhill in Sochi four years later.
“The first time (at an Olympics) it’s discovering what it means. I know over the years how to approach it. Crossing the finish line you know it’s over for four years.”
Gut has qualified for the downhill, Super G and slalom in South Korea and will also try to qualify for the combined next Friday in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
– ‘Wind dictated race’ –
Sunday’s race in the Italian Dolomites was dictated by the windy conditions forcing organisers to finally call it off after 44 of the 58 skiers had competed.
Vonn, 33, was unhappy at missing out on a chance for her 80th World Cup success, a day after becoming the oldest woman to win the women’s downhill.
“An unlucky day. … never had such a strong wind gust in a race ever in my life. Oh well, can’t change it. I’ll save the good luck for February I guess,” Vonn said on Twitter looking ahead to the Olympics.
“Also tough race considering most of the athletes are still qualifying for the Olympics and wind is dictating results.”
Italy’s Sofia Goggia won Friday’s downhill ahead of Vonn but was one of the 13 who did not finish including Shiffrin, who was third Friday.
“I’m going to put this behind me and get focussed on the giant slalom,” said Shiffrin of next Tuesday’s race in nearby Kronplatz.
Shiffrin has a 876-point lead over Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein in the overall standings. Gut reclaimed the lead in the super-G standings, 18 points ahead of Weirather.
In a crash-marred race Austrian Nadine Fest’s tumble was the most serious with the 19-year-old transported to hospital with a suspected knee injury after losing control at speed and crashing into the safety netting.