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Masterful Gut-Behrami secures Overall & GS Globes despite Brignone’s brilliance

Mar 17, 2024·Alpine Skiing
Gu-Behrami could become the fourth female skier to win four Globes in a season
Gu-Behrami could become the fourth female skier to win four Globes in a season

Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI) confirmed her position as the standout women’s skier of 2023/24 by winning both the Overall and the giant slalom Crystal Globes on an emotional day at the Audi FIS World Cup Finals in Saalbach, Austria.

The Swiss superstar may not have been at her very best in the final GS race – finishing 10th, a full 3.22 seconds behind winner Federica Brignone (ITA) – but her non-stop excellence throughout the season meant she did not have to be.

The 32-year-old started the day with almost insurmountable leads of 95 points in the GS and 282 points in the Overall rankings, both over Brignone. That meant that she knew whatever the irrepressible Italian did, she just had to be inside the top-15 to first secure her maiden GS Globe.

“I was really nervous today because I really wanted to win that. I skied so bad, I was just so nervous so I am not so proud of that but in the end for once, with 32 (years old) I learned that sometimes you just have to stay safe, try to cross the finish the line,” Gut-Behrami said.

That is exactly what she did. Eighth at the halfway stage, the 2021 GS world champion and reigning Olympic GS bronze medallist cruised down the second run to a rapturous welcome from the tens of thousands of knowledgeable Austrian fans at the finish.

“It’s unbelievable. I mean GS has always been so important to me and to win this Globe, it’s just unbelievable,” a smiling Gut-Behrami said after replicating childhood hero Sonja Nef’s GS Globe wins back in 2001 and 2002.

A record of four wins, three podiums and four top-10s in the 11 World Cup GS races this season show just how good Gut-Behrami has been in.

“GS has always been there for me, like the key. I always knew that if I am skiing fast in GS I am skiing fast in super-G and downhill…It’s always been my goal to be one of the best in the GS, so I could feel like the best,” said the Swiss who still has the chance to add the downhill and super-G Globes her burgeoning collection.

There is no doubt Gut-Behrami has been the best this season and amid the joy of securing her longed-for GS title, the veteran was reminded she is also the overall champion.

“It’s so great to win that. I don’t realise about it, just speaking about the GS but it’s going to come,” she laughed, having secured her second Big Globe, eight years after her first.

“I am proud I can manage the entire season to ski on a high level. It’s really unbelievable.”

So close for Brignone

Brignone’s skiing has been almost as other-worldly as Gut-Behrami’s this season. Six wins and 12 podiums across the disciplines is mighty impressive, as was the pair of gasp-inducing recoveries she pulled off on her way to another roll-coaster victory.

“I tried to push and recover and just start from zero and continue the run as if nothing had happened,” said Brignone who led run one after nearly falling on her back before repeating the feat in the afternoon.  

“And then I woke up and I saw the crowd and saw the first place and it was just amazing.”

Second in the GS standings, third in the super-G – with a chance to catch second-placed Conny Huetter next weekend – and second overall sum up a remarkable effort from the 33-year-old.

“I can’t really have a regret. The only regret is maybe January when I had too many mistakes. I was trying to push too hard,” she said. “Lara was just better than me. I had an amazing season.”

Robinson and Stjernesund lay down markers

While the two veterans dominated proceedings, two young skiers quietly continued to indicate what the future might hold.

New Zealand’s Alice Robinson has long been a superstar in waiting, having burst on to the scene with her first GS victory aged 17. Still just 22, she has started to add real consistency to her undoubted talent as her fifth podium finish of the season proved.

“This year maybe I didn’t get a win but I felt like the consistency in my skiing has been the best it’s ever been, so I am really happy with that,” Robinson said, having finished second, 1.36 seconds off Brignone.

Third-placed Thea Louise Stjernesund (NOR) was equally delighted to see her progress confirmed with a best result of a consistent season.

Thea Louise Stjernesund (NOR) celebrates finishing third in the GS World Cup FInals
Thea Louise Stjernesund (NOR) ends the season seventh in the GS rankings

“Podiums is what matters and I feel ready to get them,” she said after celebrating long and hard with teammate Mina Fuerst Holtmann (NOR) who took second in Saturday’s slalom.

The home fans almost got to celebrate what they wanted most. Stephanie Brunner (AUT) produced her best of a challenging year to grab fourth, just 0.25 seconds off the podium.

But of those not to make the coveted top three, it was definitely Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR) whose grin was biggest. The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic GS silver medallist, who will retire after next weekend’s speed races, produced two solid runs to finish eighth before taking in the deserved adulation of the crowd.

Check out all the results here and be sure to tune in for the final action of the women's season on 22 and 23 March.