VAL D’ISERE, France – Lara Gut was in a philosophical mood after ending her slump in form with a convincing win in a World Cup super-G race on Sunday.
“I believe in energy … How can you describe, if someone doesn’t believe you, that you don’t feel the skis?” Gut said. “Sometimes you don’t feel it. Sometimes you’re fighting against yourself, against things you don’t realize.”
The defending World Cup overall champion had failed to finish Friday’s Alpine combined race and Saturday’s downhill, dropping valuable points in her ongoing contest with current World Cup leader Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States.
But the Swiss bounced back for her third victory of the season and 21st career win, closing the gap on Shiffrin to five points heading into their showdown in a giant slalom on Tuesday, in the nearby Alpine resort of Courchevel.
For Gut, it was also about connecting instinctively again with the Val d’Isere slope after the disappointment of the past two days. She considers the French Alpine resort one of her favorite places on the World Cup circuit, and has four wins among her six podiums here.
“I was trying to find a way to communicate again with Val d’Isere. I just felt that we were misunderstanding each other,” she said. “Usually I come here and everything is so great. But the last days I was skiing well but I didn’t have the feeling. I’m a racer who really needs to have a good feeling. If I don’t have that feeling, I can’t push.”
That feeling was back Sunday.
“At the start gate, I wasn’t thinking what I could do better technically,” she said. “I just went out and said `That’s me, that’s what I have and that’s what I can show today.’ I was communicating with Val d’Isere and it felt awesome.”
Gut powered down the Oreiller-Killy course to beat Liechtenstein skier Tina Weirather by .13 seconds and Italian Elena Curtoni by more than one second.
“From the first gate on it worked the way I wanted,” Gut said. “It felt awesome, it felt fast, that’s the way I am.”
Gut said she was more focused after having in-depth discussions with her team.
“I opened my heart to my team and tried to describe what I was feeling. They know me better than I know myself,” she said. “They showed me that nothing was wrong and this morning I was myself again on the slope.”
Her other wins this season were in super-G in Lake Louise – where Weirather also finished second – and giant slalom in Soelden.
Gut now has 38 career podiums, while Curtoni was celebrating just her second.
“I’m very happy,” Curtoni said. “I was injured in the middle of August so I lost two months of preparation.”
Weirather was .47 seconds up on Gut but then faded.
“I always lose a lot of time at the bottom in Val d’Isere, I don’t know why,” said Weirather, who is not fully content with her form. “It’s really good this season in super-G and GS but my downhill isn’t where I want it to be. I don’t know what to do, really.”
Italian Nadia Fanchini was fourth, just like in Saturday’s downhill, and Frenchwoman Tessa Worley placed fifth for a career best in super-G.
It was another good day for Italian racers after placing four in the top six in downhill.
It could have even better as Sofia Goggia missed out on a seventh podium of the season. She was leading Gut, but then went out.
Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia finished a disappointing seventh.
Stuhec won the Alpine combined and the downhill here to take her season’s tally to four wins, but this time finished 1.75 seconds adrift of Gut.
Many observers had predicted a straight contest between Gut and Shiffrin – who skipped Val d’Isere – for the overall.
But Stuhec is only 12 points behind Gut in third place, while Goggia is 26 behind Gut in fourth. “It makes a good story if you (only) have two contenders. But anything can happen,” Gut said. “It’s great to have Sofia and Ilka showing what they can do.”
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