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Lara Gut-Behrami passes absent Mikaela Shiffrin in World Cup overall standings

For Lara Gut-Behrami, ski racing isn’t all about winning races any more. It’s just as much about avoiding injuries, too.

The Swiss star overtook the absent Mikaela Shiffrin on top of the women’s World Cup overall standings with a giant slalom victory in Soldeu, Andorra, on Saturday.

Enjoying a three-race win streak, Gut-Behrami raised her season’s tally to 1,214 points, five more than Shiffrin, who sat out this weekend’s races to nurse a left knee injury.

Gut-Behrami then skipped Sunday’s slalom won by Swede Anna Swenn Larsson. American Paula Moltzan took third for her third career World Cup podium.

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It was the first slalom to include neither Shiffrin nor 2022 Olympic gold medalist Petra Vlhova of Slovakia since March 2011, snapping a 117-race streak. Vlhova suffered a season-ending right knee injury in a Jan. 20 race fall.

“I learned a lot from my injuries,” Gut-Behrami said Saturday. “My first priority is to come to the end of the season. Sometimes we forget that and we only talk about points or wins, but somehow it’s more about skiing great and staying safe.”

Gut-Behrami learned that lesson seven years ago. She was the defending champion when she tore the ACL in her left knee near the end of the season and dropped out of a duel with Shiffrin for the 2016-17 overall title.

This time, it’s the American who is out injured.

Shiffrin hurt her knee, but avoided damage to the ligaments, while landing from a jump and crashed into the safety netting at a downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, 16 days ago.

Gut-Behrami finished second in that race and has racked up 345 points in the five events that Shiffrin has missed since.

“Yes, but this is probably one month too early,” Gut-Behrami said with a smile on regaining the lead in the overall standings with 14 races left until the season ends on March 23.

Gut-Behrami is after her second overall title, Shiffrin can win her sixth.

“For the overall World Cup, this season has shown us that you have to be fast and you have to be healthy. That will always be my top priority,” said Gut-Behrami, who also led the standings after winning the season-opening race in Austria in October.

Many top skiers have been involved in serious crashes lately and suffered season-ending injuries, including Vlhova, Valerie Grenier and Corinne Suter, and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, Alexis Pinturault and Marco Schwarz on the men’s circuit.

On Saturday, Gut-Behrami came from a long way behind and improved from ninth position after the opening run to edge out New Zealand’s Alice Robinson by one-hundredth of a second. Shiffrin’s teammate AJ Hurt finished 0.15 behind in third for the American’s first career podium in GS.

“I am just so happy about the win. It was a tough race, I missed completely the first run, I didn’t come into speed,” said Gut-Behrami, who finished 0.61 seconds off the pace in the morning session.

Marta Bassino led Federica Brignone for an Italian one-two finish in the opening run, but they dropped to sixth and fourth, respectively.

Bassino was the junior world GS champion 10 years ago. She won the World Cup title in the discipline in 2021 but has won just one World Cup race over the last three years.

Most racers struggled and lost time on a bump in a right turn near the end of the course. Gut-Behrami did as well, but the rest of her run was near-flawless.

“Second run was good, I just attacked. I had a big mistake on the finish so I’m really happy that in the end it worked out,” she said. “Everything I was missing in the first run, I wanted to show in the second run. The course was nice, I enjoyed that.”

Hurt continued her breakthrough World Cup season with her second career podium, and first in GS.

“I think I just went as hard as I could. I was like, I’m going to go all out, either I fall out or I I’m going to make it to the finish hopefully really fast,” said the California native, who was out injured for almost the whole of last season.

“I was just excited to come back, excited to be back to ski racing at all. So, this is really crazy to have this.”

Hurt earned her first podium when placing third at a slalom in Slovenia five weeks ago, and had two top-10 results in GS before Saturday’s race.