Lara Gut holds on for commanding win at Soelden opener
Lara Gut of Switzerland kicked off the 2016/17 FIS Audi Alpine World Cup tour with a commanding giant slalom victory, the second of her career at the Soelden opener. After holding a 1.42-second lead following the first run, she maintained nearly the same margin of victory over runner-up Mikaela Shiffrin, who was 1.44 seconds back when all was said and done.
Gut admitted she was a little nervous heading into the first race of the season as the defending 2016 overall title winner, but she took the advice of Marcel Hirscher and her support team.
“It’s always special in Soelden, and you know it’s my first time coming as an [overall] winner,” said Gut after the run. “I had a tough time this morning, I was just thinking all the time today – like Marcel [Hirscher] told me yesterday just to ski. My team exactly told me the same. So I tried just not to think and ski.”
After laying down a significant lead over the field in the first run, Gut was under some pressure to maintain her lead.
"Finally, this morning, I was just like, ‘It’s a beautiful day. I love the slope. I have to enjoy that.’ And yeah, this was the key. I just tried to ski. And sometimes it’s horrible, You get in the race and start thinking instead of just skiing, but yeah, I’m happy and I’m glad I had a fast first run because the second one was a fight."
The American Shiffrin, who started the race outside of the top seed in bib 16, gave chase in the second run but couldn't quite catch Gut. Still, she was proud of her fight in the race but still feels she has more to give.
"I definitely like second. I like first better, but it is nice to start off on this foot and it was really a tough day for a lot of girls, I think," she reasoned. "Lara was the only one who really skied as hard as she could and I’m happy with where I’m at. I took more risks than I ever have in a GS, but I can do better. I can do more and better.”
Securing her career first podium finish in third place was 20-year-old Italian Marta Bassino whose teammates ran out to the finish area to congratulate her. She sat in third place after the first run and was able to hold onto the podium position.
“I’m so excited, and it’s the first podium. I’m so happy, it’s like a dream," Bassino exclaimed.
Of additional note on the day was Slovakian Petra Vlhova, better known for her past success in slalom, who skied the fastest second run for a career-best giant slalom finish in eighth after starting from bib 55.