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Italian skier Federica Brignone wins women’s World Cup GS to stay in contention for season title

ARE, Sweden (AP) — Italian skier Federica Brignone used a blistering second run to win the season’s penultimate women’s World Cup giant slalom Saturday and stay in contention for the discipline title.

Brignone needed to gain at least 36 points more than GS standings leader Lara Gut-Behrami did, and managed to do so with the help of first-run leader Sara Hector.

The Olympic GS champion from Sweden finished runner-up and pushed Gut-Behrami into third position. The Swiss star would have locked up the title if she had finished second.

But after winning four races this season, Gut-Behrami is still in a favorable position to clinch it next week, carrying a 95-point lead over Brignone into the season-ending GS at the World Cup finals in Austria. A race win is worth 100 points.

Mikaela Shiffrin sat out the race after recovering from knee injury, but the American star plans to return to racing at Sunday’s slalom.

Gut-Behrami is also a strong favorite to win the overall title since Shiffrin didn’t race in the past six weeks, and the Swiss standout holds healthy leads in the downhill and super-G standings.

The only discipline Gut-Behrami cannot win is the slalom, where Shiffrin is likely to secure the season title upon her return on Sunday. It would be the American’s record-equaling eighth slalom globe.

On Saturday, Brignone was 1.16 off the lead after the first leg. But with a gutsy all-or-nothing run, the Italian posted the fastest second-run time for her 11th career GS win.

“The first run, I was not really happy with my run, I started really bad, I had no confidence,” Brignone said. “In the second run, I said to myself, ‘OK, you have to try everything.’ I tried my best and I’m so grateful and proud of what I did.”

Opening the floodlit race in light snowfall, Hector was near-flawless in an attacking first run on a course she skied “countless times” when she visited the local ski gymnasium in her junior years.

“It didn’t feel so easy, but it was good to start first,” said Hector, who was chasing her sixth career GS win and first since triumphing in Jasna, Slovakia in January.

Weather conditions improved for the second run, but the race jury had already decided by then to lower the start gate, which reduced run times by more than 10 seconds.

Austrian skier Katharina Liensberger had a nasty crash in the first run when she skied through a gate and lost balance, then fell backward with her helmet hitting the snow. Liensberger, the 2021 slalom world champion, stayed down for a minute, but ultimately stood up.


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