Consistent Brem leads quest for World Cup GS title
JASNA, Slovakia (AP) While Lindsey Vonn's knee injury has prematurely ended a tense battle for the women's overall World Cup title, the fight for the giant slalom championship remains tight.
Ahead of Saturday's last but one GS, six racers are still in the hunt.
Leader Eva-Maria Brem is 32 points ahead of Germany's Viktoria Rebensburg, and 80 in front of Switzerland's Lara Gut, while three more competitors have at least a mathematical chance.
Six years ago Brem broke her left leg during an off-season crash, which put her career in doubt. She came back the next year but failed to make Austria's squads for the 2013 world championships and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Now she is chasing her first discipline title.
''It's important that I perform well and really deserve this globe,'' said Brem, who finished runner-up to Austrian teammate Anna Fenninger last year. ''If I don't perform well, someone else deserves to win it.''
Fenninger won the GS title alongside the overall title the past two seasons, but has been sidelined this campaign following knee surgery. It has left Brem with Austria's only chance to clinch a globe.
It's been her consistency that has put Brem in contention. She won just once this season - in Courchevel, France, in December - but finished in the top eight of all seven giant slaloms, a feat unmatched by any of her rivals.
Rebensburg closed the gap on Brem with back-to-back wins in Flachau, Austria, and Maribor, Slovenia. She could become the first German skier to win three in a row since Martina Ertl-Renz in 1998.
''I am not thinking about racing against Eva,'' said Rebensburg, who won Olympic gold in 2010, and the GS globe the following two seasons. ''I am trying to focus on things I can control - skiing well.''
Trailing by 80 points despite two GS wins, Gut will be dependent on mistakes by Brem and Rebensburg.
The Swiss skier, however, is in a much better position to take the lead in the overall World Cup standings. Trailing Vonn by 28 points, she needs to finish ninth or better in Saturday's race.
The American four-time champion ended her season Wednesday, four days after sustaining multiple fractures in her left knee following a super-G crash in Soldeu-El Tarter, Andorra.
''We still have eight races and those 800 points count just as much as they did at the beginning of the season,'' Gut said. ''We've seen a couple of times this season how quickly things can change.''
The resort of Jasna is hosting its first World Cup event in 32 years.
In 1984, nine years before Slovakia became an independent nation, six-time world champion Erika Hess of Switzerland won the GS here.
Interest in Alpine skiing got a boost in Slovakia this season after Veronika Velez-Zuzulova and Petra Vhlova combined to win three races.
This weekend's event sold out months ago, with a total of 40,000 visitors expected over two days.
In Sunday's slalom World Cup, Frida Hansdotter of Sweden will wrap up the title with a race to spare if she finishes ahead of her sole rival, home crowd favorite Velez-Zuzulova.