Sweden’s Sara Hector wins giant slalom for first Olympic medal

(Photo by Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

Sweden’s Sara Hector took home gold in the women’s giant slalom at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Monday. It’s her first individual victory at a major championship.

The 29-year-old finished in a combined time of 1:55.69. The quickest down the hill on her first run, her second leg was eighth-fastest in the field and enough for her to hold onto gold. Federica Brignone of Italy was 0.28 seconds slower over the two legs, claiming silver.

Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland finished in third, adding another bronze to her arsenal after collecting one in the downhill at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Defending Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin crashed out during Monday’s opening run and did not qualify for the final.

Fellow American Nina O’Brien was injured on her second run after skiing the sixth fastest in the opener. O’Brien, who had to be taken away on a stretcher, is reportedly “alert and responsive.”

Hector has four World Cup wins. Her first came in December 2014 before a devastating knee injury nearly forced her out of the sport. But she worked her way back and has had a breakout season on the World Cup circuit so far this year. She earned her second World Cup win in giant slalom in December. In January, she won two more to lead the World Cup giant slalom standings heading into Beijing.

“It took me a long time to understand what I need,” she said then. “Now I know much more about what I need, and that’s been cool to find out.”

She is the first Swede to become Olympic champion in the women’s giant slalom in 20 years. Pernilla Wiberg did it in 2002.