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Huetter denies Gut-Behrami in thrilling World Cup downhill finale

Cornelia Huetter celebrates her first crystal globe in the World Cup downhill at home in Saalbach, Austria (Joe Klamar)
Cornelia Huetter celebrates her first crystal globe in the World Cup downhill at home in Saalbach, Austria (Joe Klamar)

Cornelia Huetter won the final women's World Cup downhill race of the season at home on Saturday, sealing her first crystal globe to deny Lara Gut-Behrami a fourth title this season.

In front of her home crowd on the windy slopes of Saalbach, Huetter pushed Gut-Behrami off the top of the World Cup downhill rankings which the Swiss had looked poised to win.

Gut-Behrami crossed in 17th, missing out on a fourth winter globe after winning the overall, super-G and giant slalom.

US ski star Mikaela Shiffrin won the slalom title for the eighth time earlier this month after returning from a six-week injury lay-off -- her 96th World Cup win.

After several delays, Huetter blitzed down the slope to finish 0.17sec ahead of Slovenian Ilka Stuhec with Italy's Nicol Delago third at 0.49sec.

It was the sixth World Cup victory for the 31-year-old Austrian and her first globe after 12 years competing.

"I'm really speechless," said Huetter, who last won a downhill in Lake Louise, Canada in December 2017 but had already managed three top-four finishes this season.

"It's amazing to have a home race with this ending, I could never have imagined it.

"This morning I woke up and I slept so bad, and I woke up and I thought, 'Give your best, it's the last chance today for this season,' and I did it."

Gut-Behrami led by 72 points going into the downhill.

But she was almost two seconds off the pace and needed someone to beat Huetter's time to take the globe.

- Mowinckel bows out  -

Gut-Behrami had difficulty hiding her disappointment.

The 32-year-old suffered her worst result of the season in downhill.

But the skier who had expressed her doubts last summer about her career had an exceptional winter with eight victories and 16 podium finish.

"Of course when you are in the start you just want to try to give your best and try to win everything you can win," said the Swiss star.

"But in the end I'm really happy about the season — altogether, I can't really complain."

Huetter finished with 397 points in the downhill standings with Gut-Behrami second on 369, and Italy's Sofia Goggia third with 350.

The last race of the season also marked the farewell of Norwegian Ragnhild Mowinckel, retiring at the age of 31 and after 248 World Cup starts -- four victories, the last on the Cortina downhill in Italy last January -- two Olympic silver medals and two world third places.

If the weather permits with snowfall forecast, the World Cup concludes on Sunday with the men's downhill and the duel between Swiss legend Marco Odermatt and French sensation Cyprien Sarrazin.

Odermatt is currently 42 points ahead of Sarrazin, with 100 points on offer for victory.

dar/ea/pb