Words: Amara McLaughlin
Ski racing star Lara Gut tamed the challenging Raptor course with back to back wins at Beaver Creek, and Aksel Lund Svindal’s win in the super-G at Lake Louise this weekend awarded him two new World Cup records.
This year’s Audi F.I.S. Alpine World Cup speed events began with the ladies downhill on Beaver Creek’s debut Raptor course on Friday.
Swiss sensation Lara Gut was the first racer to win the Raptor, with a winning time of 1:41.26 in the downhill. The women were the first World Cup racers to ski Beaver Creek’s Raptor course designed for the 2015 World Championships.
Gut was followed by Tina Weirather, of Liechtenstein, who finished 0.47 seconds back. Italy’s Elena Fanchini finished third.
But this was just a start for young Gut, who made the Swiss national team at 15 and won her first World Cup event at 17.
Gut dominated the new course again in the super-G, claiming back-to-back wins with a time of 1:18.42, almost one second ahead of Austrian favorite, Anna Fenninger.
With her second win, the 22-year-old Gut tied the Swiss Ski Team’s record for most World Cup super-G wins.
Down the road a few miles from Beaver Creek, American favorite Lindsey Vonn was back on her skis in Vail, training to defend her title in next weekend’s races at Lake Louise, Alberta. Vonn has postponed her second ACL reconstruction surgery on her right knee after a training mishap two weeks ago at Copper Mountain in hopes of competing in the Sochi Olympics.
Meanwhile, the men’s downhill at Lake Louise saw an upset for Norwegian veteran Aksel Lund Svindal, who didn’t defend his win from last year’s Lake Louise event.
The 2013 Hahnenkamm champ Dominik Paris of Italy claimed his first Lake Louise win, 0.03 seconds ahead of Austrian Klaus Kroell. Svindal missed the podium by 0.12 seconds and landed a fourth place finish after up-and-coming French speed star, Adrien Theaux.
In the super-G, though, Svindal would have his day. The Norwegian made history on Sunday with his winning time of 1:28.53. Svindal has now won five World Cup super-G races at Lake Louise, tying Austrian legend Hermann Maier’s record of five wins at one venue. (Maier, who retired after a sensational racing career in 2009, won five World Cup super-G races on Kitzbühel’s Hahnenkamm.) Svindal is now the first man to win five races in one discipline at Lake Louise. After being tied with former Norwegian team member Kjetil Andre Aamodt for the most World Cup wins by a Norwegian in alpine skiing, Svindal also broke that record on Sunday with his 22nd victory.
Returning to Beaver Creek’s infamous Birds of Prey slope on the same day, Swedish skier Jessica Lindell-Vikarby earned her first World Cup giant slalom win. Lindell-Vikarby stole the victory from 18-year-old American technical star Mikaela Shiffrin by a combined time of 0.09 seconds.
Gut, who won the opening giant slalom event of the season in Solden, was knocked from the leader board at Beaver Creek after not finishing her first run.
Next weekend, the men and women switch courses between Beaver Creek and Lake Louise. These early season races are particularly important this year for the U.S. and Canadian Ski Team members, as their results contribute to qualifying for Olympic spots in February’s Sochi games.