By ERIC WILLEMSEN, Associated Press
SÃLDEN, Austria (AP) – Lara Gut-Behrami edged out Mikaela Shiffrin by two hundredths of a second as the pair took a big lead in the first round of the season opening women’s giant slalom on Saturday.
Austrian skier Stephanie Brunner was the fastest of the rest of the field, but was more than half a second behind in third.
Defending champion Petra Vlhova was 0.81 behind in sixth position, while Marta Bassino skied.
The Italian, who won the race a year ago and dominated the discipline with four wins last season, lost control of her ski just outside halfway through her race, as she was already .57 behind Shiffrin, then leader.
GS world champion Gut-Behrami had an aggressive race in perfectly sunny conditions on the Rettenbach Glacier as the Swiss star led Shiffrin’s time by a few hundredths throughout his race.
Gut-Behrami got off to the quickest start and was ahead by 0.09 on the first pass, but lost a fraction of his lead over Shiffrin at each of the subsequent checkpoints.
The three-time American champion in the general classification opened the race with a clean course.
Shiffrin briefly shrugged after finishing, but his time easily held up when other pre-race favorites fell.
âIt was a really super clean race. I felt really good in my skiing, âsaid Shiffrin. “Looking at Lara, she’s also very relevant and maybe a little more active, like that little extra something.”
New Zealander Alice Robinson, who won the season opener in 2019, finished 0.90% ahead; Federica Brignone, the 2020 World Cup overall champion, was 1.51 seconds behind; and French star Tessa Worley had 1.65 to catch up in the second leg.
With some of the big names struggling, others seized their chance to finish the first round in the top 10.
World slalom champion Katharina Liensberger was fourth, Canadian prodigy Valerie Grenier was fifth and Slovenian Meta Hrovat also finished one second behind Gut-Behrami in ninth place.
Amid strict anti-coronavirus measures, the race drew 9,000 spectators.
A minute of silence before the race was devoted to Gian Franco Kasper, the long-time president of the FIS who died in July, just a few weeks after the election of Johan Eliasch to succeed him.
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