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Olympics: Gut aims to make good in second speed event

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

It is sometimes easy to forget that Swiss speedster Lara Gut is not only a veteran of the alpine skiing world stage, but also very young.

The 22-year-old shot to fame in her second season in the World Cup, at the age of 17, storming to an unexpected two silvers in the downhill and super-combined at the 2009 world championships in Val d'Isere.

The polyglot missed the Vancouver Games in 2010, however, as she recovered from a dislocated hip, but the Olympic bronze she won in Wednesday's downhill is a sure sign that things are going well again.

"I'm sorry if at the beginning I didn't seem too happy about that," the Swiss racer said after her bronze-medal showing.

"We're athletes: we always want to be first. I think it's normal. It's the same for fourth, fifth, everybody... There's no reason to be unhappy with my bronze."

That statement sums up Gut, a feisty competitor who goes into Saturday's super-G as the World Cup leader in the discipline, having won the final pre-Olympics run-out in Cortina d'Ampezzo, and is reigning world silver medallist.

After her third place behind joint gold winners Tina Maze of Slovenia and teammate Dominique Gisin, Gut again showed her iron will by insisting there would be no partying.

"It's like you're happy, but you're happy on the inside. I'm going to sleep tonight, not have a party," she said.

"When you're an athlete and you know you can win more medals, one is not enough - even if it's gold."

The fact she didn't top the podium obviously irked.

"You cross the finish line and you're leading, and you think no one is going to do that for the next four years," she mused.

"You finish not leading and you think you have to wait four more years to do it again."

Well, she will be in prime position to push for gold come Saturday, albeit up against some familiar opposition over the "super giant slalom", which combines elements of the downhill and the giant slalom, and is decided over one race.

The Austrian team have lined up Anna Fenninger, Elisabeth Goergl, Nicole Hosp and Regina Sterz as their quartet, all four of whom who could push to top the podium.

In the likely absence of injured in-form Liechtensteiner Tina Weirather, who trains alongside Gut with the Swiss team, the main rivals will also include Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch, the current World Cup overall and downhill leader.

Hoefl-Riesch showed her form by winning Monday's super-combined from Hosp, with American Julia Mancuso taking bronze after a strong downhill run.

Hoefl-Riesch admitted that her best opportunity to add to her combined gold was the second speed event.

"I think more in the super-G," she said. "Super-G was really good in Cortina, twice on the podium.

"But in the giant slalom I've had no podium this season so I definitely don't count as one of the medal favourites in giant slalom, and slalom is tough anyway."

And then looms the figure of Maze, who won the super-G at the world championships in Schladming last year from Gut and Mancuso.

"It was all about focusing on the Olympics rather than the World Cup," she said about her topsy-turvy season in which she has changed coaches, taking on former Swiss ladies manager Mauro Pini.

"We had a lot of things that were not working the way we wanted them to. In the middle of the season it's risky - but if you don't risk anything, you get nothing."

Unlike the downhill, skiers do not have the chance of a pre-race training run for super-G, only a one-hour visual inspection on the morning of the race, scheduled for 0700 GMT.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140213/olympics-gut-aims-make-good-second-speed-event