Gut focuses on her own race, not thinking about Shiffrin

BY AP • December 15, 2016

VAL D'ISERE, France (AP) Lara Gut is not spending any time thinking about Mikaela Shiffrin, even though the American slalom specialist is a serious threat to Gut's overall World Cup title.

Last weekend, Shiffrin won the 11th consecutive World Cup race that she has entered in that discipline, extending her overall lead over Gut to 105 points.

As she seeks her first overall title, the 21-year-old Shiffrin is branching out into the speed disciplines of downhill and super-G.

However, Shiffrin is not competing in those events this weekend in Val d'Isere, giving Gut a great chance to overtake her.

''It's already enough hard work to try and make everything work for me,'' Gut said Thursday after finishing third in downhill training. ''I'm not going to start to worry about the others, what their plans are, whether they're skipping a race or when they're coming back. My 24 hours are already full enough.''

The 25-year-old Gut is focusing only on herself.

''When you're in the start gate, it's just you and the slope,'' the Swiss said. ''I'm not racing against someone. I'm racing for myself.''

The chances of Gut retaining her overall title look good, considering the current situation in women's skiing.

Four-time overall World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn is recovering from a broken arm; 2013 World Cup winner Tina Maze has retired; and two-time World Cup winner Anna Veith - known as Fenninger before getting married earlier this year - is working her way back from a serious right-knee injury.

But Gut does not like to think about her chances.

''I'm not defending anything, because the overall (title) I won is at home and no one can take that away,'' Gut said. ''I understood last year that perfection has nothing to do with sport. I always thought that to win the overall you would need a perfect season. Last year I was crying after races - it happened that I had no idea what was going on, what I should do, what I should change.''

So far this season, Gut has won the giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, in late October and super-G at Lake Louise, Canada, earlier this month.

''I had a good start, better than last year,'' Gut said. ''Soelden wasn't perfect, but it was amazing because I just realized how much I just love to ski and how lucky I am.''

There are no half-measures with Gut.

When she gets on the podium, she often finishes first and her ratio is 20 wins from 37 podium finishes.

''If I just go outside and ski the way I can and it works, then I know I can win,'' she said. ''It's not going to be second or third.''

Last year, Gut clinched a downhill-Alpine combined double in Val d'Isere.

This year, she has a chance for a hat trick. There is an Alpine combined race on Friday, a downhill on Saturday, and a super-G on Sunday.

''Everything is possible. That's the good thing in sport,'' she said. ''But I'm not going to start thinking about winning the race. Because thinking about winning doesn't bring you anything; thinking about skiing brings you a fast finish.''

Gut has a good career record at Val d'Isere, with five podium finishes.

She credits her special affinity with the French Alpine resort to her childhood days holidaying in France with her family.

''When I was a kid we used to come skiing to Val d'Isere in the winter, and in the summer we often went to the Cote d'Azur,'' she said. ''I just have good memories. I'm probably just keeping that.''

Her brother will be attending this weekend, which is good news because Gut says she has a special task for him if she wins.

As is the custom in Val d'Isere, race winners are offered a cow. Gut did not take up the offer last year, much to the annoyance of her brother.

''Last year it was a big issue because I didn't bring it (the cow) home,'' she said. ''He's coming tomorrow and, I think if I win, then that's his thing to think about.''

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