Lara Gut’s Guide to Alpine Skiing at PyeongChang 2018
There is no room for even a flicker of fear in the intense world of Olympic Alpine skiing, so says Lara Gut, who is seeking golden glory in PyeongChang having won three world championship silver and two bronze medals, and a bronze at Sochi 2014.
“If you feel fear you should not race, you put yourself in danger when you are afraid,” said Gut, the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 downhill bronze medallist. “It’s important to respect what you are doing, respect the slope and the sport, but you have to have that feeling that you are in control and you are deciding what to do.”
Gut will be competing for the women’s downhill, super G and giant slalom gold, with her peers also going for slalom and super combined (one downhill and one slalom run) glory. The world’s best male skiers will take to the slopes in the same five events, with the best of both genders combining for the new mixed team event. It will feature 16 teams of four (two men, two women) battling it out two at a time in a knockout, parallel head-to-head format over a shortened giant slalom course.
Gut cannot wait to get out there.
“I love the feeling of freedom. You are on the slope, just you yourself, no one else,” said the Swiss star. “First of all, you just have to compete against yourself, for yourself. You are racing with the mountain. I remember it as a kid and it’s still the same.”
“It’s instinct for me. When you’re going fast everything meshes together and you don’t have to think, it all comes from the inside. It feels like a dream and I wake up after the finish. I don’t know what happens in between – I am just going with the flow, I am not thinking. If you have the time to think you are too slow,” explained the woman who was the International Ski Federation (FIS)’s overall World Cup champion in 2015/16.
With skiers reaching speeds above 100km/hr on the longest course with the fewest gates on the programme, the downhill is the ultimate test of nerve and stamina. Gut won bronze four years ago in Sochi, but was just one tenth of a second behind joint-winners Tina Maze, of Slovenia, and Gut’s Swiss teammate, Dominique Gisin.
“For downhill, it’s all about weight and instinct,” the 26-year-old reported. “You do have the training runs so you can work on things and it’s easier to improve.”
Gut enjoyed stellar 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons, winning three World Cup downhills, four super Gs, three giant slaloms and a super combined. A horrific injury in 2017 at her home FIS World Championships in St Moritz – she ruptured her ACL – brought that run to an end and, having returned to action late last year, she is still fighting her way back to top form.
“It’s not easy, but I know I am not that far away either,” she said. “I am not skiing that fast or quite the way I want right now, but I am learning. And sooner or later I will be fast.”
A natural born flier, Gut has always excelled in the super G, a course that combines the speed of the downhill with the elegance of the giant slalom. Like the downhill, there are no training runs in the super G, a factor that further plays into the talented Gut’s hands.
“You have to decide what to do and trust in yourself. Pure instinct. As a racer, I love this.”
“The turns in giant slalom are the basis of skiing, everything has to match together,” Gut said of the first of the technical events. “It is the most complicated discipline, but when you are fast in giant slalom you are going to be fast in every other discipline.”
With four career Giant Slalom World Cup wins to her name, Gut knows what she is talking about.
As Gut puts it, slalom specialists are “different”. Absolute precision is key, with the smallest of mistakes liable to catapult skiers out of contention. Like the giant slalom, each competitor races twice down the course, with the times combined to determine the finishing positions.
“Slalom is another world, you just have to work and train and train. It’s about repeating everything,” Gut explained. “It is completely different movements. If you were just doing slalom you have a lot of days to work on it, but if you are competing in four disciplines you lose your slalom training days and then it’s not easy.”