YANQING, China (Reuters) -Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami won the women’s super-G at the Beijing Olympics on Friday with a time of 1:13.51 to end her run of agonising near misses in the event and give her country their first gold in the event.
Reigning super-G world champion Gut-Behrami, who had finished fourth in the event in the past two Winter Olympics, was 0.22 seconds quicker than silver medallist Mirjam Puchner of Austria.
The Swiss also picked up a bronze medal with Michelle Gisin 0.30 seconds behind her team-mate’s winning time.
Surprisingly for a country with such a pedigree in the sport, no Swiss skier, male or female had won gold in super-G before Gut-Beehrami’s triumph.
American Mikaela Shiffrin, who had failed to finish in her two favoured events, slalom and giant slalom, ended in ninth position, 0.79 seconds off Gut-Behrami’s time.
Gut-Behrami, who claimed bronze here in the giant slalom on Monday, had missed out on the podium by a hundredth of a second in Pyeongchang and seven hundredths in Sochi.
She said this time she put tactics out of her mind.
“I had no strategy at all. I just tried to ski. This is what has always been a little bit of a problem in the past – thinking what to do and what to do better. Now I just try and ski,” she said.
“I love super-G, I told myself it’s not a different course to lots I have skied before,” she added.
Having come out of the hut as the seventh runner down, the Swiss grabbed the lead from Puchner and then had a long wait to see her victory confirmed.
“I was so nervous in the finish someone would come faster. I am trying to enjoy it, but I think I am going to need a few more days to understand what is going on,” she said.
Gut-Behrami joins Katja Seizinger of Germany and Slovenian Tina Maze as the only female skiers to claim an Olympic medal in each of the downhill, super-G and giant slalom events.
Puchner has enjoyed most of her success in downhill and was shocked by her result on ‘The Rock’.
“I am speechless. I never thought I could do this because super-G was always a little bit difficult for me, but today I had a good feeling,” she said.
Gisin, who recovered from mononucleosis in the summer, said she had taken a similar no-nonsense approach to the race as her team-mate Gut-Behrami.
“Not too much strategy, just go for it. It’s an amazing hill,” she said.
Shiffrin had contemplated skipping the first women’s speed event but was glad to have gone some way to getting her disappointments out of her system.
“It felt really nice to ski that today. There’s been a lot of disappointment over the last week. There’s a lot of emotions. (It was) not really easy to reset and know if I was up for the challenge today,” she said.
“The track itself is beautiful, and it’s sunny, and the snow is amazing. Coming back out and getting the chance to race again was just the perfect thing to do, actually,” she said.
Shiffrin still has a chance to get gold in the combined event where she is among the strong favourites.
The 2018 Olympic super-G gold medal winner, Czech Ester Ledecka, finished in fifth place after making history in the event four years ago when she became the first skier to win gold in Alpine Ski and snowboarding.
The Czech has defended her snowboard parallel giant slalom title in these Games and still has a chance for medals in the Alpine downhill and combined.
“I still feel a little bit like a snowboarder but I’m very grateful for my team because they made amazing job today to prepare me for the race in such a short time after winning snowboard so I’m very happy about today and it was fun”, said the 26-year-old from Prague.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Richard Pullin & Shri Navaratnam)