Gut-Behrami eyes speed double at Cortina worlds

Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy) (AFP) –


Lara Gut-Behrami set out her credentials for a speed double at the world championships by topping the final training before the women's downhill on Saturday.

The Swiss racer will be hoping to take advantage of the absence of home favourite and Olympic champion Sofia Goggia, winner of the last four World Cup downhills before sustaining a season-ending injury.

"It will certainly be a close race, you can't make any mistakes," Gut-Behrami said.

"The snow is also not easy to ski, you have to ski a tight line."

Gut-Behrami finally bagged a world gold when she stormed to victory in Thursday's super-G, but insisted that topping podiums was not a life-changing event for her.

"If someone would have asked me if I would have preferred 30 wins in the World Cup or a (world championship) gold medal, I would have said 30 wins," she said.

"With time I realised that in life there are so many things that are more important than a gold medal.

"So this made it easier to ski (the super-G) and just try to do what I can and not think too much."

A bronze medal winner in the downhill in the 2015 worlds behind Tina Maze and Anna Veith, both now retired, the 29-year-old Gut-Behrami also claimed silver as a teenager behind Lindsey Vonn way back at the 2009 worlds in Val d'Isere.

Reigning double champion is Ilka Stuhec, who is struggling with an ankle injury after serious problems with a knee, but has admitted to having thought about nailing three titles.

"Yes, of course I have thought about that scenario," she said.

"But I approach this race and try to take (the possibility of winning three golds) as motivation, not a record," said the Slovenian.

"It would be special to do it again. But I am coming into this season rather differently. For St Moritz in 2017, I went in great form, and for Are in 2019 I'd had some good races and podiums."

- Sore 'steering wheel' -

Stuhec added: "I've had a problem with my ankle. It's like the steering wheel, with its connection to the ski. Right now it's as good as it gets.

"But that's all behind me. Tomorrow is a new day."

The Olympia delle Tofana course in Cortina is a regular on the World Cup circuit, and also one much liked by competitors.

"For 85 percent of the field, it's their favourite track," said Norway's Kajsa Vickhoff Lie.

American Breezy Johnson, who goes into the race as one of the favourites for a podium placing after nailing four third-place finishes in the downhill this season, added: "The track is very cool, you feel like you're part of the mountain.

"The snow is always great here and it's very light after the 'dark' pistes" skiers have to negotiate in Austria and Germany earlier in the season, according to Johnson.

"It has been a fun place for Americans," she said in reference to 12 World Cup victories (six downhill, six super-G) by the now-retired Vonn.

Other contenders on Saturday will likely include Ester Ledecka, the Czech code-hopping Olympic super-G gold medallist who has put her snowboard to one side in her bid for more hardware on a pair of skis.

Gut-Behrami's teammate Corinne Suter, second in the super-G, will look to go one better than her silver medal downhill showing in Are two years ago.

"The slope is in a very good condition and the course is very well set," Suter said.

"The downhill is set similarly but the snow is different. Now it’s all about attacking tomorrow."