Nineteen-year-old Lara Gut grabbed headlines by upsetting Lindsey Vonn in the Super G in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria earlier this month, but she is unchanged by the publicity.
Until recently, the Swiss skier still bunked at her parents’ in her hometown of Comano, a 1,000-person village where she is known as “the skier” (her brother is known as the second skier). More comfortable buying sneakers than designer dresses, Gut and her fellow team members compete in Descente jackets and pants. Her only après-ski fashion indulgence is job related. She sports a Rolex, thanks to an endorsement deal. Without question, she was more excited describing skiing at speeds up to 130 kilometers per hour — which is not quite, but pretty close to, how fast she drives her Audi S4 (another job perk). “When you’re on skis, it doesn’t feel that fast,” she says.
Green as she is, Gut’s career has hit a few bumps. A dislocated hip sidelined her from racing for most of last year. Shortly after returning to the circuit, she was suspended from two World Cup races for criticizing Swiss head coach Mauro Pini. Reached in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, where she finished third in the Super G during more World Cup racing last weekend, Gut was very much focused on what lies ahead instead of her recent coup.
“It was amazing and fast. But that was more than a week ago. Life goes forward. It doesn’t matter what I did. In three days, it will just be another race. We’re here to try to win,” she says simply.
Like Vonn, Gut is a striking blonde with blue eyes and a fierce competitive streak. But the teenager has not been nearly as aggressive as the American Olympian in terms of wooing sponsors. Gut, who trains about five hours a day, says, “After I was injured last year, I got two new sponsors. Now I am just trying to win.”
As for Vonn’s penchant for branding herself, Gut says of the the 26-year-old, “She’s the best skier in the world, so she has to use it to try to find sponsors. That’s important for her to be a person and not just a skier.”
While Vonn has made a habit of hitting the red carpet for awards events and movie premieres, Gut has not. “Two years ago, I had to find a dress for my first red-carpet gala. Trying to find a dress was the hardest thing. It was so horrible. For me, it’s easier to buy a pair of sneakers than fashion clothes,” she admits.
Despite that challenge, the designer scene intrigues her. “It seems like an interesting world. I saw the film ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ It’s just too unbelievable for words,” Gut says. “I like to see new worlds that are different than the skiing one. We test 50 pairs of skis a year — some people test 100. It’s exactly the same with fashion. Designers create such crazy clothes and that’s their life.”
For now, the Swiss skier is content to catch up on fashion trends whenever she happens to find a stray copy of Vogue on an airplane. “But I’m never home, so I don’t get the magazine. I’m not reading Playboy either — that I can say.”