Shiffrin skis into sixth place at Sestriere World Cup giant slalom
Defending overall winner remains at the top of the standings by 25 points with a slalom set for Sunday
The question going into Saturday’s World Cup giant slalom in Sestriere, Italy, was whether it would be “rest or rust” for Mikaela Shiffrin.
After sweeping the opening slalom weekend in Levi, Finland, then not winning — for the first time ever — the following weekend’s slalom in Killington, Vermont, where she placed fifth, the defending World Cup overall winner decided to skip the speed events in Lake Louise, Canada, last weekend. According to her spokesperson, Megan Harrod, that was a decision made prior to Killington to allow Shiffrin to prepare for the Sestriere tech series.
On Saturday, Shiffrin placed sixth as the local, Marta Bassino, took the win with a combined time of 2 minutes, 28.89 seconds. Sara Hector (2:29.00) was second and Petra Vlhova (2:29.29) placed third after posting the top first run.
“Yeah I’m really happy for this victory here at home with these amazing Italian public. It’s just amazing. It was a fight because the slope was really tough, but anyway I tried my best and it’s unbelievable,” Bassino said.
Second-run shifting of the standings
Searching for her first giant slalom win since Courchevel, France, on Dec. 21, 2021, Shiffrin sat in fourth place, 0.44 seconds back from Vlhova after Saturday’s first run. Skiing in sunny conditions on compact snow, Wendy Holdener — who won her first career World Cup slalom in Killington two weeks ago (after 30 career podiums in the event) — skied into first place late in the second-run order. But, she didn’t get to sit in the leader’s chair for long.
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American Paula Moltzan linked together clean turns on the 51-gate course, rocketing into first with a total time of 2:30.93, redeeming her two DNFs in Levi and 18th place in the Killington giant slalom. Moltzan would finish eighth overall.
Federica Brignone, the 2020 winner in Sestriere, then wowed the home country with a bold second run. The 32-year-old, trying to become the first Italian woman to win at least three World Cup giant slalom events on Italian snow, gained ground on every sector to pop into the lead by 1.38 seconds with five athletes remaining.
The defending Olympic gold medalist, Sara Hector, did even more, improving upon Brignone’s second run by 0.09 seconds and going into the lead by 0.55 seconds.
Shiffrin’s run would be characterized by wide swings in performance. She posted the slowest opening split and the fastest second of any competitor contesting a second run. On the bottom of the course, it was more of the same. Her third-fastest fourth split couldn’t undo the 18th-fastest third, and her final mark was just the 28th-best, ultimately losing 1.38 seconds on the eventual winner, Bassino.
In Sestriere, Shiffrin has recorded a slalom win in 2016 and a sixth-place giant slalom finish that year. In 2020, she placed third in the giant slalom.
Vlhova was in the lead after the second segment, but struggled in the lower sections of the course, sliding into third after segment three. The Olympic slalom gold medalist from 2022 would have to settle for the bronze.
“Yeah, this course is challenging,” said Vlhova, who is fourth in the discipline standings and second in the overall, during a podium interview.
Americans Katie Hensien, A.J. Hurt, Ava Sunshine and Allie Resnick all were DNFs on the first run. Nina O’Brien was 42nd and Stella Johansson was 52nd, failing to earn second runs.
In the overall standings, Shiffrin (305) holds a slim lead over Vlhova (280), with Wendy Holdener (266) and Sara Hector (247) in third and fourth respectively. Bassino (180) sits atop the giant slalom standings, with Shiffrin in eighth (60).
Sunday’s first slalom run is at 2:30 a.m. MST, with the second to follow at 5:30 a.m. MST. Shiffrin has a 20-point lead over Holdener in the slalom discipline standings heading into the event.