Shiffrin enters Bulgarian World Cup events |

Shiffrin enters Bulgarian World Cup events

And getting over a weird weekend

Yes, the red gates got Mikaela Shiffrin during a World Cup parallel giant slalom in Sestriere, Italy, on Sunday, but as New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick might say, "It's on to Bulgaria." (Probably not.)
Marco Trovati | AP

Welcome to Bulgaria, Mikaela.

Mikaela Shiffrin apparently will be racing in speed events in Bansko for the first time in her career, she announced on Twitter.

“Hey everybody, It’s Mikaela Shiffrin. I’m so excited to be in Bansko. It’s my first time here, first time racing here. So I’m super excited for these races and I hope you are too and I hope you enjoy the show.”

Presumably, the three-time defending World Cup champion will compete in both Saturday’s downhill and Sunday’s super-G. Downhill training runs are scheduled for today and Friday. Shiffrin is wearing the No. 20 bib for today’s training run.

Sestriere strangeness

Shiffrin is coming off a bizarre weekend of giant slalom and parallel GS in Sestriere, Italy. In Saturday’s GS, She finished 1-hundredth of a second off the pace — and finished third. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova and Italy’s Federica Brignone shared the win.

Support Local Journalism

Shiffrin is pretty familiar with a photo finish in World Cup races. She’s tied twice for a win in her career on the World Cup.  She and Vlhova were deadlocked on the top step during last year’s Maribor, Slovenia, giant slalom on Feb. 1. The previous occasion before that was Soelden on Oct. 24, 2015, also a GS, and it was Shiffrin and Anna (nee Fenninger), Veith.

The parallel GS on Sunday was the headscratcher. Shiffrin was the fastest in qualification but got knocked out during the Round of 16, officially finishing ninth.

Shiffrin is the model of avoiding all controversy in the press and in social media. Her statement via the U.S. Ski Team on Twitter was “I don’t like to talk about luck playing a role-even yesterday, .01 out, I feel like that was in my control. Today I’d say it’s a day where luck plays a role … it IS fun and people like to watch it. it’s just a work in progress to make it the best it can be.”

The ellipses are important here because what she said in between those sentences, according to Yahoo! Sports was, “But these two courses are not the same at all. I’m a little bitter.”

Shiffrin was referring to the blue and red courses used in the knockout stage of Sunday’s race. By the results in the single-elimination — 17 winners emerged from the blue course, while just three came from the red one — it appeared that the blue gates were just a faster path. Shiffrin raced on the red course and was eliminated by the eventual winner, France’s Claire Direz, on the blue.

Need for speed

Tactfully put, Shiffrin didn’t get the breaks last weekend, which is somewhat a theme for the season. Coming off a ridiculous 2018-19 campaign, where just about everything did go right — 19 wins in 29 starts between the World Cup and the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships and go down the list — not everything is so smooth this year.

Anyone expecting Shiffrin to win 17 World Cups — a new record — again and win the super-G, GS and slalom globes once more was clearly expecting too much.

It’s hard to repeat a performance, whatever the sport. In fairness, Shiffrin isn’t like an NFL team that won the Super Bowl and is now 7-9 and out of the playoffs.

Shiffrin leads the overall over Vlhova, 975-726, holds the slalom points advantage, is second in GS and a surprising sixth in super-G. But back to the overall, 192 of the 249-point lead Shiffrin maintains come from speed events.

While she hasn’t popped off a win in speed events this season, her participation has been valuable in her quest to four-peat as the World Cup champion. Finish in the top 30, which presumably means just getting down the hill in one piece for Shiffrin, gain points and build on her lead. That’s the goal for the weekend. Everything else is gravy.

So welcome to Bulgaria, Mikaela.

Support Local Journalism