After tears in Sochi, Lara Gut challenging Vonn for title
CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) When Lindsey Vonn eclipsed the career record for downhill wins last weekend, she and runner-up Larisa Yurkiw took turns spraying each other with champagne.
Swiss rival Lara Gut, the third-place finisher, stood to the side.
As Vonn's only real challenger for skiing's overall World Cup title this season, Gut - it's clear to see - won't be satisfied with anything but beating the American.
''She's got it in her blood. She's a thoroughbred,'' Gut's father and coach, Pauli, said in an interview.
Lara Gut's behavior in Cortina was a reminder of how she cried in disappointment after taking the bronze medal in the downhill at the 2014 Sochi Olympics - finishing 0.10 seconds behind joint gold medalists Tina Maze of Slovenia and Swiss teammate Dominique Gisin.
''When you finish 10 hundredths back and you know that you made a mistake up top it's frustrating,'' Pauli Gut said.
This season, however, has been more rewarding than frustrating for the Guts.
With four wins spread across three disciplines - giant slalom, Alpine combined and downhill - Lara Gut is only 45 points behind Vonn entering Saturday's giant slalom in Maribor, Slovenia.
While Vonn has been dominating the speed events of downhill and super-G, Lara Gut has been better at giant slalom and they have been trading the overall lead from weekend to weekend.
''It's exciting, it's interesting, and it's also a little stressful for us,'' Pauli Gut said. ''But I think it's always a little stressful for the actors.''
Lara Gut's performance is impressive considering that she switched equipment in the offseason, leaving Rossignol after four seasons for Head - the same company that supplies Vonn.
Retired downhill standout and fellow Swiss skier Didier Cuche helped with the transition.
''I think it was a good choice. I'm skiing faster than last year, so it paid off,'' Lara Gut said. ''Didier has been working a lot on the skis. I asked him if he was ready to help me and he agreed, so it was interesting.''
Lara Gut's new ski technician is Chris Krause, who helped Cuche to four World Cup downhill titles and also worked for Bode Miller briefly.
''I have a perfect technician who knows the skis so well,'' Lara Gut said. ''So it was just me the one who had no idea. Didier knew, Chris knew, so they helped me a lot.''
The Guts, therefore, are relying on an American, Krause, to beat Vonn.
''We're all professionals and everyone is just trying to do their job and have the fastest equipment possible,'' Pauli Gut said.
Vonn's technician, Heinz Haemmerle, also calls it a friendly rivalry. After all, both he and Krause work for the same company.
''(Chris) is doing a great job and I try to beat him and he tries to beat me,'' Haemmerle said. ''He tries to have the fastest skis and I do the same thing. ... We work together and we tell each other everything. On training runs you tell what you had on. We talk about what he's trying and what I'm trying.''
The overall champion will likely be determined at the World Cup finals in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in March.
At 31, Vonn could become the oldest woman to win the title - which would be her fifth large crystal globe.
The 24-year-old Gut is seeking her first such title, and if she clinches it on home snow there will likely be no holding back in the champagne celebration.
''That wouldn't be too bad,'' Pauli Gut said. ''That would be the top.''
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf