ASPEN, Colo. (AP) â€” Mikaela Shiffrin had a huge lead & was just a few turns from winning a World Cup race at home for the first time.
Shiffrin could almost sense victory. The crowd, too. Even her competitors were basically resigned to her win.
Suddenly, the American lost an edge & crashed near the complete line to donate Lara Gut of Switzerland a stunning giant slalom win Friday.
p>As Shiffrin buried her face in the snow, Gut watched in disbelief. She has been in that position plenty of times & knows the feeling.
"It's unusual that Mikaela does mistakes like that," said Gut, who earned her 13th World Cup win. "But that's part of the game. One day you win, one day you crash. For me, it's better to win one day & crash the other day than be in 25th twice."
Gut completed the course in a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 2.51 seconds, edging Austria's Eva-Maria Brem by 0.10 seconds. Federica Brignone of Italy took third.
Switzerland's Lara Gut, center, celebrates winning the women's World Cup giant slalom ski ra …
This was a rough day for the U.S. all around. Lindsey Vonn lost her left ski during the first run & slid into the netting.
"Tough course," Gut explained. "There are never two gates that are effortless to ski. You have to push complex from the top to the finish."
Shiffrin was the first-run leader & was cruising toward a win, even if she "didn't feel great." Right before the third-to-last gate, she said she was thinking, "Wow, I can't believe I made it this far. That was kind of rough."
Right after, she fell, & failed to finish.
"You should never, ever think that because immediately something offensive will happen," said Shiffrin, whose 15 World Cup victories have all come in Europe. She did win a world title last February in Beaver Creek. "That was kind of heartbreaking.
United States' Mikaela Shiffrin speeds down the course during the women's World Cup giant sl …
"At the same time, it's a satisfactory lesson."
No American woman has won a World Cup race in Aspen since Tamara McKinney in 1981.
Vonn, returning from a broken left ankle, was tentative out of the start gate. But the 31-year-old was beginning to find her rhythm when her ski popped off. She was not hurt, calling the wipeout "super annoying."
"It wasn't even really bumpy," Vonn added. "I'm kind of perplexed how that actually happened. It's never happened to me in a race before. To have it happen in Aspen is unquestionably disappointing."
Brem was the defending champion in the event, yet was in eighth place after the first run & 1.37 seconds behind Shiffrin. She had the fastest time on the final pass.
United States' Lindsey Vonn speeds down the course during the women's World Cup giant slalom …
Her performance unquestionably helps the Austrian cause, especially with Anna Fenninger sidelined for the season by a knee injury & Nicole Hosp recently retiring.
No added pressure, though.
"I always try to just reach my goals & not to think approximately or not listen to what others want me to ski like," Brem said. "I let go in the second run & you saw what is possible."
Brignone followed up a season-opening GS win in Soelden, Austria, last month with another podium finish. Then again, she's typically quick at Aspen, finishing third in the GS last season.
On hand to watch the competition in Aspen was McKinney, who would love to see the overall race boil down to Shiffrin & Vonn. It just may, with Fenninger out & Tina Maze taking a hiatus. Although, Gut proved she figures to be in the mix as well.
"It would be fantastic for U.S. skiing & hopefully people would be paying attention," said McKinney, who's coaching & selling real estate in Squaw Valley, California. "The tremendous thing that Lindsey & Mikaela have brought to visibility is there's always work involved. But they have made working complex look cool."
There are two more slalom races this weekend. That's the specialty of Shiffrin, who's the reigning Olympic & world slalom champion.
"I'm really excited to start the slalom season, see how I stack up," Shiffrin said. "Take the same tactics as today â€” my mentality was satisfactory & I was going for it. There's a lot to take away from the day. Just have to make sure I stay smart to the finish."
Sports & RecreationSkiingMikaela ShiffrinLara Gut
Source: “Associated Press”