Thursday , 27 April 2017

Shiffrin favoured for prized World Cup title after Gut crash



ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — Exiting her home ski world championships in a helicopter airlift after a crash, Lara Gut lost a lot on Friday.

Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States lost her main rival for the sport’s most cherished prize — the season-long World Cup overall title — she is now a huge favourite to win.

Still, the 21-year-old Shiffrin was not happy to benefit from the Swiss star’s bad luck.

“There’s a huge pit in my stomach hearing about @Laragut ‘s injury,” Shiffrin wrote on Twitter. “Wishing her a speedy recovery.”

The 25-year-old Gut suffered a severe knee injury in warmups for her slalom run in the combined event. In third place after the morning downhill run, she was a serious contender to improve on her bronze medal from the super-G on Tuesday.

Gut’s immediate loss was leaving behind three medal chances on the St. Moritz course.

She also lost the chance to fight for another giant crystal trophy awarded to the world’s best all-around skier. Gut won her first World Cup overall title last March.

A Shiffrin-Gut duel was expected over 11 more events scheduled after the worlds, leading to season-ending races at Aspen, Colorado.

There is a maximum 1,100 points to be won, and Shiffrin’s lead of 180 was set to be tested by Gut gathering points in speed races that the American typically skips. Shiffrin specializes in slalom where the Swiss is barely a threat to score points.

With Gut out, Shiffrin has a big gap over two skiers having breakout seasons: 414 points clear of Sofia Goggia of Italy, and 418 ahead of Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia.

The opportunity opening for Shiffrin did not seem to matter in her first reaction to Gut’s crash.

“I hope this isn’t as bad as they’re thinking,” wrote Shiffrin, who has trained away from the spotlight so far at the two-week worlds.

By mid-afternoon, the medical bulletin was a torn ACL and bruised meniscus in Gut’s left knee. She should undergo surgery next week.

“We all push each other in this sport and it is always disheartening to see anyone get injured,” Shiffrin said on Twitter.

It is also routine in women’s skiing which is poised to have a debut World Cup overall champion for the third time in four years — and a rival’s injury is a factor.

In 2014, Anna Fenninger of Austria sealed the overall title after Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany crashed and was airlifted off the downhill course in finals week.

Two-time defending champion Fenninger missed all of last season injured, and Gut battled with Lindsey Vonn for the title. The American star led with two weeks left when she suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Now Gut leaves a way clear for Shiffrin, who also has races scheduled at Squaw Valley, California, next month before arriving in Aspen days after her 22nd birthday.

U.S. team director Patrick Riml said Shiffrin will stick to her race schedule despite Gut’s absence.

“The plan is not going to change,” Riml told The Associated Press on Friday. “But right now, (World Cup) is not the most important thing.”

Shiffrin is set to start in giant slalom on Thursday, then seek a third straight world title in slalom next Saturday. Good health permitting.

Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press


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