ST. MORITZ – Federica Brignone set an Italian record in the Alpine skiing World Cup by winning a wind-swept super-G Sunday that saw pre-race favorite Lara Gut-Behrami crash out through the safety fences.
Brignone was 0.11 seconds faster than her teammate Elena Curtoni down a fast course shortened to less than one minute. The start was brought lower down the exposed Corviglia hill by strong crosswinds higher up.
A 17th career World Cup win for Brignone is the most by an Italian woman in the 55-year history of the World Cup.
“That’s really amazing. I hope that I’m not done with the victories,” said Brignone after moving ahead of Deborah Compagnoni, whose 16th win came in January 1998.
Mikaela Shiffrin extended her lead in the overall standings by placing third, 0.43 behind Brignone, despite wearing the No. 2 bib. The early start gave her little idea how gusty winds would affect racing in the bright sunshine after a 50-minute delay.
“I was a little bit nervous running (No.) 2 already,” Shiffrin told Swiss broadcaster RTS. “Sometimes you get this push from the wind from behind and then it’s a little hard to handle that speed.”
It proved tough even for No. 7 starter Gut-Behrami, the world champion in super-G who had won Saturday when cloud cover made the rolling terrain tough to see.
The Swiss star went too fast on a direct line approaching a sharp left-hand turn she was unlikely to make. She was unbalanced by the terrain and went sideways standing upright into and through the safety fences.
Gut-Behrami sat still on the snow awaiting attention before she skied down to the finish area. She was later filmed in the finish area limping to congratulate Brignone in the leader’s chair.
The Swiss team said Gut-Behrami was sore but not seriously injured.
A banner day for the Italian team seemed likely when it held five of the first six places after the top-20 elite group had started. Curtoni also clocked the fastest speed of 99.3 kph (61.7 mph).
However, the wind conditions and blue skies proved favorable to lower-ranked starters.
Starting No. 26, Alice Robinson of New Zealand took fourth place and No. 31 Ramona Siebenhofer of Austria was fifth.
Those unexpected results pushed Sofia Goggia, who was runner-up Saturday, down to sixth trailing Brignone by 0.75. She lost most of that time being cautious through the fast section that took out Gut-Behrami.
Goggia now leads the season-long super-G standings, breaking the tie she had shared with Gut-Behrami.
While the 31-year-old Brignone is the most successful Italian woman on the World Cup circuit, slalom great Alberto Tomba leads the men with 50 race wins.
She now uses the same technician, Mauro Sbardellotto, who prepared skis for Compagnoni, the super-G gold medalist at the 1992 Albertville Olympics.
“I’m really grateful to have him. Without him I could have never reached the 17 victories," said Brignone. Five of those wins helped her become the overall World Cup champion two seasons ago.
Defending overall champion Petra Vlhova, who specializes in slalom and giant slalom, skipped the two super-G races in St. Moritz.
Shiffrin said she now plans to sit out next weekend’s downhill and super-G at Val d’Isere, France to catch up on training. Only slalom and giant slalom races are scheduled from Dec. 21 through Jan. 11.
The American earned 60 World Cup points for each of her third-place finishes in St. Moritz and leads Goggia by 90 in the overall standings.
“I feel strong physically and I feel good with my skiing,” Shiffrin said, though hedged on targeting a fourth career World Cup title. “We have to wait a little bit longer to see.”
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