CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland (AP) — Lara Gut-Behrami won a World Cup downhill race on Friday for her first victory in more than two years.
Gut-Behrami led a 1-2 Swiss finish on the Mont Lachaux course, beating downhill standings leader Corinne Suter by 0.80 seconds. Stephanie Venier of Austria was third, 0.92 behind.
Gut-Behrami, an elite speed racer with Olympic medals and seven previous World Cup wins in downhill, had a best result of 10th place in six starts this season.
Suter can clinch the season-long discipline title on Saturday, taking advantage of closest challenger Mikaela Shiffrin’s extended break from racing after the death of her father.
Shiffrin still leads the overall standings but two racers moved closer to the three-time defending champion. Petra Vlhova was fourth on Friday, 1.08 behind, to score an unexpected 50 World Cup points for a career-best result in downhill. The Slovakian slalom specialist only ever started one World Cup downhill until last month.
Federica Brignone tied for seventh to earn 36 points and cut Shiffrin’s lead to only 77. The Italian racer is favored to score 100 points in Sunday’s combined event, a race she won in the past three seasons at Crans-Montana.
Shiffrin’s era of World Cup domination began after the then-Lara Gut won the overall title in 2016.
Friday’s win was the 25th of Gut-Behrami’s World Cup career and the first since she married Switzerland international soccer player Valon Behrami.
Suter looked to be the likely winner until Gut-Behrami, starting 18th, began a consistently fast run on the 2.45-kilometer (1 1/2-mile) course. Gut-Behrami had a half-second lead midway down and clocked the second-fastest speed check at 105 kph (65 mph).
The sun-bathed, south-facing slope hosted an extra downhill this weekend to replace the Feb. 1 race canceled by bad weather on the 2014 Olympic course in Russia.
Vlhova was among several skiers launched off a mid-race jump, and she needed to twist in mid-air to maintain balance and stay on the racing line.
A slick racing surface saw some racers go too fast through corners and miss a gate. Elisabeth Reisinger of Austria was airlifted from the mountain after crashing and sliding into a safety fence.
Last year, there was a finish-line timing problem at the race in Crans-Montana downhill. The podium places were amended three days later and Gut-Behrami dropped from third to sixth.
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