Lara Gut, the return of the prodigal
Though only 22, Swiss skier Lara Gut has experienced pretty much everything in her short career. After an exhilarating start came a year sidelined by injury, followed by a gradual return to the top, which she hopes to cap with success at her first Olympic Winter Games.
Switzerland’s Lara Gut is nothing if not talented. The youngster from Ticino (SUI) can tell the story of her career so far, including her early triumphs and year-long injury travails, in five languages: her mother tongue Italian, English, French, German and Spanish. She will doubtless be adding some Russian to her linguistic repertoire at Sochi 2014, where she has hopes of climbing on to the podium in four events: the giant slalom, super-G, downhill and the super combined.
The 22-year-old Swiss seems to have been starring on the big stage for so long that it is hard to believe that Sochi will be her Olympic debut. She was only 17 when she became the youngest ever winner of a FIS World Cup super-G race at St Moritz in December 2008. Two months later she proved that was no fluke by collecting silver medals in the downhill and super combined at the 2009 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Val d’Isere. Those triumphs made her an overnight star in her country, where she was hailed as a potential World Cup winner.
“I’ve been able to make a career out of something I love doing,” Gut once said. But it has not all been plain sailing. In September 2009 her career took a turn for the worse when she fell on a training run in Saas Fee (SUI), sustaining a hip injury that would keep her off the slopes for a year and left her watching the Vancouver Games on TV. “That brought me straight back down to Earth,” she said. “Everything happened too quickly for me. If I’d gone to the 2010 Games, I wouldn’t have been thinking about my results. Now I know what it takes to win: a combination of talent, hard work and luck.”
One of the highpoints of her climb back to form and fitness came when she claimed another world championship silver at Schladming 2013, this time in the super-G. Following an intensive summer in ideal training conditions, Gut served further notice that she was back to her best by kicking off the 2013/2014 season with a handsome victory in the giant slalom in Solden, becoming the first Swiss skier to score a World Cup win in the event since Sonja Neef en 2003. She followed that up with stylish victories in the first downhill and super-G races of the winter, at Beaver Creek (USA) in November 2013.
“Obviously the Games will be an interesting experience,” says Gut. “But for now I just want to concentrate on training and the next few races. I want to take things step by step.” Her combination of talent and determination could see her step all the way to the top of the podium in Sochi.