Mowinckel leads after 1st GS run in Vermont; Shiffrin 6th

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              Norway's Ragnhild Mowinckel competes during the first run of the alpine ski, women's World Cup giant slalom in Killington, Vt., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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KILLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Three months ago, Federica Brignone of Italy was on crutches after hurting her left knee in a training crash. It didn’t take her long to get back up to speed.

Brignone won a giant slalom for her ninth career World Cup victory Saturday, with Mikaela Shiffrin taking fourth as the American competed before a home crowd.

On a windy afternoon, Brignone mastered the Killington course in a combined time of 1 minute, 51.33 seconds to beat first-run leader Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway by 0.49 seconds. Austria’s Stephanie Brunner took third for her first career World Cup podium finish.

Brignone made a slight mistake on the course and thought she no longer had a chance to win. Seeing her name at the top after crossing the finish line caught her by surprise.

“Unexpected for sure,” Brignone said. “Because I had that big mistake. It’s always like, ‘Yes, I did it!'”

After the victory, Brignone spent time signing as many autographs as she could for the youngsters in the crowd.

“I remember when I was a kid and going around to some races and wanted to get the autograph from the (winner),” Brignone said. “So I tried to stop to each little guy or little girl that wanted my autograph and I hope I did it for everyone.”

It was another splendid performance for Brignone, who took second at last month’s season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria.

This after averting a potentially disastrous knee injury. In August, Brignone hurt one of the ligaments in her knee, but avoided serious damage to her ACL. She missed a few weeks but soon returned to the slopes. She’s been working out in different places, including at the U.S. ski team’s speed center in Copper Mountain, Colorado.

Brignone now has five giant slalom World Cup wins. She was third in the event at the Pyeongchang Games last February.

Of her first World Cup podium, Brunner described her emotions as “crazy.” She said competing before so many fans made her feel as if she were racing in Austria.

“It’s amazing,” Brunner said.

Mowinckel appreciated the snow quality at Killington.

“You can feel kind of invincible when you ski here,” said Mowinckel, who earned two silver medals at the Pyeongchang Olympics. “The snow responds so well.”

Shiffrin fell during a morning training session but was fine and able to race. The reigning Olympic GS champion from Colorado was sixth after the opening run.

“I was happy with some of my skiing but I wasn’t happy with the intensity,” Shiffrin explained. “Watching some of the other girls come down, they’re skiing like they want it. I want it, too, but I was enjoying it too much.”

The two-time overall World Cup champion was more aggressive on her final run.

“It wasn’t quite enough,” Shiffrin said. “Watching (Federica) go down, you’re like, ‘Well, yeah, that makes sense.'”

Shiffrin will try to win a third straight World Cup slalom race at Killington on Sunday. She captured the opening World Cup slalom of the season last weekend in Levi, Finland, and received a reindeer as a prize.