Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin edges Gut-Behrami in GS for career win 79

United States' Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates winning an alpine ski, women's World Cup giant slalom, in Semmering, Austria, Wednesday, Dec.28, 2022. (AP Photo/Piermarco Tacca)

SEMMERING, Austria (AP) — Everyone in ski racing seems to be counting Mikaela Shiffrin’s World Cup wins. Except for Mikaela Shiffrin herself.

The four-time overall champion won a gripping duel with Swiss rival Lara Gut-Behrami in a giant slalom Wednesday to earn career victory No. 79.

Shiffrin also won Tuesday’s GS on the same course and is now three World Cup wins short of the women’s record held by Lindsey Vonn.

“What does it mean to have 79 victories? I can’t answer that question,” the American said. “Because it’s been 12 or 13 years of racing, and good races and bad races, and highs and lows. The last three years have been really difficult.”

Beyond Vonn, only Swedish skiing great Ingemar Stenmark (86) has more World Cup wins.

For Shiffrin, 79 wins, or any other number, cannot properly summarize her entire World Cup career, which started in 2011.

“It means a lot. But today I just say it’s not 79 but it’s just one, and I’m really happy with it,” she said.

Shiffrin could even get one closer to Vonn’s best mark before the end of 2022 as the three-day series at Semmering will be concluded with a night slalom Thursday. She won all three events the previous time the resort near the capital Vienna hosted races on three consecutive days, in December 2016.

On Wednesday, Shiffrin trailed leader Gut-Behrami by 0.22 seconds after the opening leg but the pair swapped places after a thrilling final run in which both made mistakes, with the American racer ultimately beating her rival by 0.10.

“It was hard, it was so dark, some really big bumps, I tried to push,” Shiffrin said.

Marta Bassino, who leads the GS standings, was 0.47 behind in third, followed by Italian teammate Federica Brignone in fourth.

It was Shiffrin’s 16th win in GS, putting her in joint second place on the all-time winners list alongside Annemarie Moser-Pröll and Tessa Worley. Only Vreni Schneider won more giant slaloms with 20.

The win also stretched Shiffrin’s lead in the overall standings to 305 points over Sofia Goggia. The Italian speed specialist is not competing in Semmering.

Shiffrin and Gut-Behrami set up their duel by building a big lead over the rest of the field in the opening run, when the Swiss skier looked flawless on the icy Panorama course.

With the gates set in an uncharacteristically straight line, Gut-Behrami and Shiffrin completed the course in less than a minute, about five seconds faster than Tuesday.

Shiffrin led Gut-Behrami’s time throughout her run but could not match the Swiss skier’s pace at the flat bottom section.

“It’s quite a straight course, a really fast course, and it has bumps in it,” Shiffrin said. “It’s kind of hard to ski something with so little turn and I’m really happy that I was able to do it that well.”

In the second leg with more turns, no racer had a clean run. Starting last as the first-run leader, Gut-Behrami lost her advantage over Shiffrin at the first split time, but she gained time again in sections where her rival struggled.

The fastest second-run time was clocked by Valérie Grenier, who improved from 12th after the opening run to fifth. It meant redemption for the Canadian skier, who posted the fourth-fastest time in the opening run of Tuesday’s race before being disqualified for having started too early.

Shiffrin’s American teammate Paula Moltzan finished ninth to claim her third top-10 result in GS this season.

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