BEAVER CREEK — It was a day of firsts for all three women standing on the podium for Sunday’s giant slalom, the final race of the Raptor Ladies’ World Cup.
For winner Jessica Lindell-Vikarby of Sweden, more well known for her super-G racing, it was the first giant slalom podium of her career. Vail’s hometown darling, 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin, rolled into a solid second place finish, the first giant slalom podium of her career. Shiffrin had the second to last run in the final round, and the crowd went wild as she expertly carved her way down the course. Lindell-Vikarby, the last racer to go, responded with a fluid run that bumped Shiffrin’s final run time by about a 10th of a second.
Switzerland’s Tina Weirather was the surprise third place winner. She’s a top downhill and super-G racer, but this is the first giant slalom podium for her. The podium finish was an impressive turnaround for her after crashing out in Saturday’s super-G, not to mention a landmark in her career.
“It was always my big goal to get a podium in GS. I think it’s the most important discipline, so I’m very happy with today,” she said. “It was just a matter of time.”
Lindell-Vikarby has likely seen more World Cup starts than Weirather and Shiffrin combined. She was the surprise leader, a World Cup veteran who came back from a knee injury in 2009. Since then she’s shown herself to be a sold top 15 finisher, but hasn’t had a World Cup podium in the last few years, and certainly not in giant slalom. She also put down the fastest run of the first round. On her final run, she had two mistakes early on in the course, but made up the time on the bottom half of the run to hold onto first place.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium, and I’m pleased to be here again. I’ve been working really hard the last three years on my GS,” she said.
Shiffrin was visibly giddy over the silver, a nice addition to the five slalom World Cup wins she already owns. The Beaver Creek result follows a sixth place giant slalom World Cup result earlier this season in Soelden, Austria.
I really just wanted to ski as well as I could today,” said Shiffrin, an Eagle-Vail native. “This is my favorite hill because it feels so good to make good turns and arc the turns, and I think I did a pretty good job with that today. I was so excited to race. I couldn’t wait to get out of the starting gate.”
This could be Shiffrin’s big debut into the winner’s circle of the giant slalom. She said that the discipline has been the focus of her recent training.
“I’ve been training more GS than slalom this year, working on how to produce speed in GS,” she said.
Trouble on the hill
Unlike downhill and super-G, where racers get one run, giant slalom puts competitors through two rounds. After the first round, those who “make the flip,” meaning they place in the top 30, advance to the second round. The final times are an total of both runs.
Notably, Lara Gut, who has dominated the weekend winning both the downhill and super-G, was missing from the final run. The Swiss skier crashed out on the Golden Eagle portion of the course. She said she was disappointed in the giant slalom outcome, but was rightly happy with the weekend overall.
“I had two wins, it’s even better than I could imagine,” Gut said. “You just have to watch out. I’m going to take my good skiing with me and try to do the same next week (at Lake Louise, Alberta).”
The course and snow at Beaver Creek got rave reviews from racers, although the Screech Owl portion gave racers like Gut significant trouble. Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany and Anna Fenninger of Austria both did not finish the race. Both had solid first runs, but got in trouble on the course.
Such is ski racing, as Weirather pointed out in reference to her super-G crash.
“I really tried to win yesterday, and kind of went all in and tried everything, and it didn’t work out,” she said. “But that can happen. You have to get up and try again.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or firstname.lastname@example.org