LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin led a World Cup giant slalom that ends the women’s ski season Sunday, after world champion Lara Gut-Behrami made a curious exit.
Gut-Behrami at first seemed to simply stop racing just a few seconds into her run, one day after she was confirmed as runner-up in the overall World Cup title race to Petra Vlhova.
The Swiss star left broadcasters mystified when she skied out after the third turning gate at Lenzerheide.
Gut-Behrami, the overall World Cup champion in 2016, began to stand up straight approaching the gate, relaxed her arms and slowly skied back across the hill wide of the next gate.
It was a strange end to her impressive career revival in 2021. Since January, Gut-Behrami won six World Cup races — including four straight in super-G — plus two gold medals and a bronze at the worlds last month in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
“Lara didn’t have enough energy to give it all and didn’t want to take the risk to get injured and that’s the reason why she stopped,” Swiss team spokesman Jérôme Krieg said in a statement.
There was quick speculation that Gut-Behrami was making a protest against organizers after comments earlier in the week critical of the race week scheduling rules.
The downhill and super-G events — where Gut-Behrami is stronger than Vlhova — were canceled by difficult weather conditions on Wednesday and Thursday. They could not be moved to Friday when the little-regarded team parallel racing event went ahead without problems.
Krieg said fatigue was “the only reason (for stopping). She’s happy about her season, that it is over now and that she is healthy.”
Gut-Behrami did not stop to speak with media in the finish area, and was due to return to the course for trophy presentations in the afternoon.
Shiffrin was well positioned to seek a 70th career World Cup race win, taking a 0.10-second lead over Marta Bassino and Meta Hrovat.
Bassino already secured the season-long giant slalom title.
After an emotionally exhausting Saturday, Vlhova placed 10th with 1.83 to make up on Shiffrin in the second run in the afternoon.
Vlhova is the first Slovakian man or woman to be overall champion in the 54-year history of the World Cup. She was congratulated by telephone by the state president of Slovakia, Zuzana Čaputová.
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