Austria’s Brem win Aspen giant slalom; Shiffrin 6th |

Austria’s Brem win Aspen giant slalom; Shiffrin 6th

Pat Graham
The Associated Press
Austria’s Eva-Maria Brem, who won the World Cup giant slalom in Aspen in 2014 and finished second in 2015, is bidding for her first World Cup discipline title.
Alessandro Trovati / AP | Alessandro Trovati / AP

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) – Eva-Maria Brem buried her face in the snow soon after crossing the finish line. That way, no one could see her emotions.

The 26-year-old Austrian raced to her first World Cup victory Saturday, holding off teammate Kathrin Zettel with a smooth final run in the giant slalom.

Brem had a big lead following a nearly flawless first run and tactically charged the tricky course to finish in 2 minutes, 5.97 seconds. Zettel was second, 0.59 seconds behind, for her ninth podium finish in Aspen. Federica Brignone of Italy was third.

When Brem finished and saw her name on top of the scoreboard she was overcome by emotion. After resting in the snow for a moment, she lifted her head up – snow sticking to her nose – and was instantly hugged by Zettel, followed by the rest of her teammates.

“It’s hard to describe what I’m feeling right now,” Brem said. “I tried to push the second run, because I thought if I don’t win this now, I wi ll never get over it.

“I had a few mistakes. It was not as smooth as the first run. But in the end it was my first World Cup victory. I’m so happy and so proud.”

American Mikaela Shiffrin held the lead for a little while after a fast final run before winding up sixth. The teenager has been dealing with a stomach virus most of the week.

Shiffrin and Anna Fenninger of Austria tied in the season-opening GS race last month in Soelden, Austria, and Brem was third.

A string of near-podium misses lately for Brem, who also finished second in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, and third in Are, Sweden, last March.

That after being left off the Austrian team for the Sochi Games. The squad was just that deep.

For those who don’t know that much about Brem, she said on her website that her first pair of skis were pink when snowmen on them. Her hobbies include tennis, shopping, relaxing and diving in the sea.

Not only that, but her motto is: “Only who think s of bright things, attracts bright things.”

Very apropos in light of her first win.

Nina Loeseth of Norway was the seventh skier out of the starting gate for the final run and found the ideal line, generating speed on the bottom of the course where others couldn’t. Loeseth was on top until Shiffrin came along.

Shiffrin was tactical up top and smooth at the bottom, giving a fist pump to the crowd after taking over the lead.

It wouldn’t hold. The 19-year-old struggled in her first run, even hitting her hip on the snow. She recovered, but was 2.23 seconds behind.

There were quite a few big names skidding out in the morning session, including Tessa Worley of France and Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley, California. Mancuso tumbled when her right ski slid out on the bumpy course.

Now, she’s off to Lake Louise, Alberta, for the speed events next weekend. That’s also where Lindsey Vonn is scheduled to make her season debut in her return from a second knee surgery.

The last racer of the morning session may have received one of the loudest cheers. Then again, Sarah Schleper, of Vail, Colorado, has always been a fan favorite.

Schleper certainly stood out, too, maybe not so much for her time — she was 9.13 seconds out of first — but definitely for her bright pink racing suit.

The four-time Olympian has a new passport this season after retiring from the U.S. team. Schleper now competes for Mexico, where her husband is from. She’s trying to stay in the game long enough to compete in her hometown of Vail at the world championships in February.

“It’s hard to compete all the time against skiers who are really taking it super professional and serious,” said Schleper, who balances raising two kids with working a couple of jobs and trying to squeeze in some training of her own. “But it’s so fun to get into the start and get that adrenaline.”

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