KILLINGTON, Vt. — Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami overcame a strong field of racers — including US star Mikaela Shiffrin — to win the giant slalom portion of the Killington Cup in front of a roaring crowd Saturday.
Gut-Behrami, 32, proved to be the most consistent racer of the day, topping New Zealand’s Alice Robinson by 0.62 seconds. Shiffrin finished third, 0.81 seconds behind.
After skiing into third place following her first run, Gut-Behrami, who also won the Vermont-based World Cup event in 2022, said that she felt more comfortable in the afternoon on her second go-around.
“The course setting didn’t change much. The first run was a little bit more windy,” said Gut-Behrami. “I was struggling a little bit with the feeling on the first run. On the second run, everything felt easier, so that was the difference. I felt more confident, and I was just pushing from the top to the finish.”
It’s the second straight giant slalom event that Gut-Behrami has won to open the 2023-24 FIS World Cup season. Having prevailed in Sölden, Austria, in October, the 2016 World Cup champion powered through the finish line to knock Shiffrin off the top of the leaderboard.
Despite not winning, Shiffrin said that she was happy with her performance following a disappointing 13th place in Killington’s giant slalom in 2022. Slotting into fifth place after the first run of the day, she delighted the crowd by skiing strongly on her second try. She crossed the finish line and was greeted with the familiar green light on the scoreboard, indicating that she had skied into the lead.
It was also an improvement from her first giant slalom event of the season in Austria, when she ended up sixth, 1.4 seconds off the pace.
“After Sölden and after sort of the way I’ve been feeling with my GS skiing the last few weeks, I was expecting to see the red light,” Shiffrin admitted. “There’s nothing more disappointing than putting everything you have into a run and then getting to the bottom and seeing that it’s literally just not good enough. So seeing that I had the green [light], seeing that it was a pretty good margin, it wasn’t a perfect run, but I started to show glimpses of the skiing that I had consistently last season.”
Shiffrin, 28, is the defending World Cup season champion in giant slalom — as well as slalom and the overall title. She will be one of the favorites in Sunday’s slalom event and will attempt to add to her record 89 victories on the World Cup circuit.
Buoyed by another vocal Killington crowd, fellow American racers Paula Moltzan and AJ Hurt also turned in quality performances.
Moltzan, 29, is a former University of Vermont NCAA champion and thrived on the support of local fans. She carved her way to the fifth-fastest second run and finished eighth overall. Hurt, 22, was 12th after her first run despite starting the day with the 37th bib. She finished 19th in what was the best Killington performance of her career.
Hayden Bird can be reached at email@example.com.