Alpine skiing-Maiden downhill win for Switzerland's Gut

VAL D'ISERE, France, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Lara Gut's exceptional talent was rewarded at last when the gifted Swiss won her maiden World Cup downhill in Val d'Isere on Friday.

Gut, who shot to fame at the age of 17 with a downhill silver medal at the 2009 world championships in the same French resort - but on another piste - clinched victory in one minute and 19.75 seconds.

Since 2009, the Swiss has won Super-Gs but was hampered by a 2010 hip injury.

The 21-year-old was helped by the circumstances as the shortened course suited her skills while her early bib allowed her to take advantage of better visibility.

Gut was also helped by the unexpected elimination of Lindsey Vonn, winner of all four speed events held this season, who crashed in a turn in the upper section and ended up in the safety nets.

American pride was restored by Leanne Smith, who finished 0.16 seconds adrift, for the first World Cup podium of her career.

Gut's compatriot Nadja Kamer was third, exactly half a second off the pace. (Editing by Mark Meadows; mark.meadows@thomsonreuters.com; +44 20 7542 7933; Reuters Messaging:; mark.meadows.reuters.com@reuters.net)

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