CRANS MONTANA, Switzerland â€” Suddenly the overall title is not looking so certain for Mikaela Shiffrin after Ilka Stuhec won a super-G race on Saturday.
There was also a worrying crash for Lindsey Vonn on a disappointing day for American skiers.
Entering this weekend’s races in Crans Montana, Shiffrin held more than a 400-point lead in the standings over her next active challenger, Sofia Goggia of Italy. Defending overall champion Lara Gut, in second place, is out for the rest of the season after injuring her knee while training between runs of the combined event at the world championships in St. Moritz two weeks ago.
However, Stuhec was second in Friday’s Alpine combined race to leapfrog Goggia into third place overall. The Slovenian went one better on Saturday to cut Shiffrin’s lead to 258 points with nine races remaining â€” including another combined on Sunday.
Stuhec, the recently crowned downhill world champion, leads the downhill standings and moved to within 16 points of Tina Weirather in the super-G.
Stuhec, who was fastest in the super-G part of the combined on Friday, finished 0.5 seconds ahead of Elena Curtoni as the Italian achieved a best ever finish in a World Cup race. Stephanie Venier of Austria was third.
“I try not to think about the globe â€” any of them,” Stuhec said. “I just try to focus on every race, do my best and then we will see what comes in the end. I’m just having a lot of fun and I don’t want it to end.
“Combined is always challenging. It’s two totally different disciplines and you have to ski both very well. I’m looking forward to it because apparently super-G works well for me. I know where I went wrong yesterday in the slalom so I’ll try to improve tomorrow.”
Shiffrin finished 13th, more than two seconds behind Stuhec.
“I didn’t quite handle the peeling snow as well as I could have and I was a bit conservative in sections that I didn’t want to be but I’m happy to get a run on this hill,” Shiffrin said. “I’ll get the video, I’ll watch a lot and compare with Ilka who’s been really skiing well and see sections where I can charge a lot harder. I know there are a lot of sections where I need to attack more.”
Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., was the top Canadian in 12th place. Valerie Grenier of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was 21st and Toronto’s Candace Crawford was 24th. Mikaela Tommy of Wakefield, Que., didn’t finish.
There was more misery for Lindsey Vonn as she was one of a number of skiers who crashed as the snow began to soften. Goggia also didn’t finish, for the second successive day.
Vonn had pulled out of Friday’s race, along with Shiffrin and their American teammate Laurenne Ross, because of dangerous conditions on the course. She had also posted on social media that she was feeling unwell Friday evening and had not fully recovered.
The announcement of Vonn’s name prompted a smattering of boos among spectators but that turned into loud gasps as the 32-year-old lost control and fell, sliding several feet before crashing into the safety netting.
There was an anxious wait as Vonn remained down and Stuhec and other skiers were clearly concerned for their rival. However, the four-time World Cup overall champion was able to ski down to the finish area, where she was greeted with loud cheers.
Vonn, who only returned to competition last month after nearly a year out with knee and arm injuries, was visibly upset and appeared to be crying as she was comforted by teammate Julia Mancuso.
The former Olympic champion also missed nearly two seasons of competition after injuring her right knee in Austria in 2013 and hurting the same knee in her comeback.
Daniella Matar, The Associated Press