Mikaela Shiffrin second at Courchevel World Cup giant slalom
114th podium finish extends American’s overall World Cup lead
Courchevel, France, has been kind to Mikaela Shiffrin.
Looking for her 15th career giant slalom win and 73rd World Cup victory, Shiffrin combined a solid first run with an aggressive second to claim the runner-up position at Wednesday’s World Cup giant slalom event. She happily embraced the winner of the day, too.
Tour favorite Sara Hector, leading after the first run for the first time in her injury-riddled 13-year career, put together two aggressive runs on the icy, compact course to secure her first World Cup victory in seven years.
“Sharing the podium yesterday with Michelle [Gisin] and Sara yesterday and Marta and Sara winning today — those are two really special podiums,” Shiffrin told the Associated Press. “Amazing athletes and amazing women — they’re some of the most positive and kind people on the World Cup circuit.”
It was the culmination of an emotional journey back for Hector from a 2015 accident in Are, Sweden, which left her patella tendon so damaged doctors told her she may never ski again.
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“Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s incredible,” an exuberant Hector told FIS reporters in the winner’s circle.
“It was such a big fight, I didn’t think I was so fast. It was so awesome.”
Marta Bassino of Italy, the 2021 World Champion in the giant slalom, finished in third.
Shiffrin came into the event having won four giant slaloms on the Courchevel hill and was looking to open the season with a third consecutive giant slalom win. Had she done so, she would have broken a tie with Tessa Worley for third place on the discipline’s all-time list.
From a technical perspective, the Edwards native emulated her opening run from Tuesday, where she opened up a 0.74 second lead on the field. She lacked the same energy and aggressiveness, however, and instead of blowing out the field, remained even with them through the first two sectors. Her opener was the third best, 0.25 seconds behind Tessa Worley of France in second and 0.34 seconds behind Hector, in first.
“Compared with yesterday, today had a lot more like scrappy skiing, some recoveries,” Shiffrin told the Associated Press.
“It was just a tough day. It’s amazing to have second place.”
Loose conditions gave the American team — and others as well — some problems early. Nina O’Brien skied out in run No. 1, and A.J. Hurt did the same halfway through her second, as did Federica Brignone, the 2020 overall champion. Sofia Goggia, who came into the race trailing Shiffrin in the overall cup standings by 35 points, was a DNF in the first run as well. Paula Moltzan was fortunate to complete the course, and starting third, launched herself into an early lead. Her 1:06.09 time was the second-fastest of the day, allowing the SSCV alumna to move up from 28th into 13th.
The lively surface, however, was ripe for athletes capable of nailing the proper line. After Switzerland’s Camille Rast surpassed Moltzan, four consecutive lead changes seemed to indicate that the gradually beaten up, slick course was going to reward athletes able to stay on their skis. The drama was gearing up for the final five skiers.
While Goggia was a non-factor, the other key player in the overall standings, Petra Vlhova, finished the first run in fifth, .59 seconds off the lead and .25 behind Shiffrin. The first of the final five to go, Vlhova skied into first, but her time in the winner’s chair was short-lived.
Italy’s giant slalom specialist, Bassino, who won four giant slaloms in 2021 en route to the discipline’s season globe title, skied a direct line, tight with the gates. The strategy seemed to help her avoid the chopped-up route taken by most skiers and thrusted her into first place. When hometown favorite Tessa Worley skied out of the course, the American was up, in search of World Cup victory No. 73.
Demonstrating her continually improved start, Shiffrin busted out of the gate aggressively in run No. 2. While coaches had alluded beforehand to some general fatigue from training and racing, Shiffrin hid it well, gouging 0.10 seconds into the previous leader in the opening sector. Still, her third race in four days and 13th World Cup start of the year had left her somewhat taxed.
“Even yesterday after the first run, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to do this three more times?’ Today was a big physical challenge and it’s also mentally tough, too,” she said.
“I knew it was going to be like that after the last weeks, but it’s always a little bit surprising when you get to this point and you feel just totally gassed.”
The gritty performance, which ended with the fourth-fastest second run of the day, put her into the lead by 0.25 seconds before 29-year old Hector stepped into the gate.
Hector was composed throughout the run, but when she crossed the line 0.35 ahead of the American, the emotions immediately started to flow. Shiffrin walked out to the finish area to embrace the 13-year World Cup veteran, congratulating the Swede on her monumental accomplishment.
“Sara’s skiing was just really incredible, and so strong, so much power the whole way in both runs,” Shiffrin told the Associated Press afterward.
“It’s been years (since her last win) and she deserves it.”
The World Cup heads to Lienz, Austria for another giant slalom and a slalom Dec. 28-29.
1. Sara Hector, SWE, 2:13.03
2. Mikaela Shiffrin, USA, 2:13.38
3. Marta Bassino, ITA, 2:13.63
Leever does not qualify for second run at Madonna di Campiglio World Cup
Alex Leever, the former University of Denver athlete and SSCV alumnus racing in the second of his seven guaranteed World Cup starts as an independent athlete, finished 47th in the Madonna di Campiglio World Cup slalom event on the Canalone Miramonti course in Italy on Wednesday.
The top American finisher was Luke Winters in 32nd place. No Americans qualified for a second run.
The next stop on the World Cup for the men is Bormio Dec. 26-30 for three downhills and two super-G events. Leever’s next opportunity for a slalom would be in Zagreb, Croatia, Jan. 4-6.