Mikaela does not win a slalom; film at 11
Mikaela Shiffrin finished 11th in a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Saturday.
The sky is falling. The sky is falling.
Actually as I type, the sky is falling here in a good way. I can’t see Beaver Creek from my desk in Eagle-Vail, there’s so much snow.
OK, back to Shiffrin, having watched her win slalom at the 2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria, the Olympic slalom gold in Sochi, Russia, and globes in the discipline the last two years, it’s meant to be automatic, right?
Slovenia’s Tina Maze won Saturday’s slalom. She challenged Shiffrin in 2013 for the World Cup slalom title with Mikaela edging the Slovenian dynamo, 688-655.
Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter finished second on Saturday. In a related development, Hansdotter (488) finished second to Shiffrin (638) in the slalom points last year.
Our little myopic world where Shiffrin just destroys the competition is understandable. Mikaela already has 10 World Cup wins at the ripe old age of 19, a delightfully silly number that does not include her wins at the Worlds and the Olympics.
Picking up her first giant-slalom victory, a tie with Austria’s Anna Fenninger in Soelden, Austria, three weeks ago probably bumped up the expectations meter.
What is telling in the first set of technical results of the season between Soelden and Levi is that the battle is engaged.
Shiffrin is duking it out so far in GS with the last two title winners in that discipline (Maze, 2013, and Fenninger, 2014) and defending her slalom crown against her primary challengers of the last two seasons.
On the slalom front, taking nothing away from Hansdotter, a Shiffrin-Maze duel is exciting. You’ve got to remember that Maze had a stunning 2012-13 campaign, piling up 2,404 points on her way to the overall crown. (The previous record for points in a season was Hermann Meier with 2,000 in 2000. Lindsey Vonn’s highest total during her four overall wins was 1,980 in 2012).
While Maze won downhill and GS gold in Sochi last year — no small feat — there was absolutely no way she was going to duplicate 2,404 points. (The Slovenian “slumped” to fourth in 2013-14 with 964.)
Separated from a year impossible to replicate, my bet is that Maze is refreshed and refocused. (Maze was asked over and over “What went wrong? What’s the matter?” by the press at last year’s Beaver Creek Raptor events when she wasn’t steamrolling the competition. Talk about unrealistic expectations.)
Maze should be a fantastic challenge for Shiffrin. The next stop is Aspen for GS and slalom Thanksgiving weekend.
First off, I am so happy that there is no Vonn watch this year. It was so annoying during last year’s Raptor/Birds of Prey to have Vonn’s injury overshadowing the actual competition on the snow.
I am thrilled she’s skipped Soelden and Levi and, from all reports, will not be in the start gate in Aspen. That’s six extra weeks of rehab, rest and/or practice.
Vonn will come back at her home away from home, Lake Louise, Alberta, where she’s only won 14 times. Seriously, comfort level is important when coming back from twice-wrecked right knee.
The scary-good thing to remember is that Vonn finished 10th in the second Lake Louise downhill and fifth in the super-G last December and she had no right knee.
Could she really come back in three weeks and win? The rational brain says that’s too much to ask. The rational brain also says that Vonn is a different breed of competitor and she just might.
Resi and Resi’s Mom
Way to go, Resi Stiegler. She had the No. 28 bib and skied to 18th on Saturday.
Speaking of Resis — that’s a plural now — a shout-out to Resi Schleper de Gaxiola’s mom, Sarah, for finishing 48th with the No. 68 bib back in the Soelden GS. Darn good for a first-go of it in nearly three years.
To anyone who thinks that Schleper skiing for Mexico is stunt, shut up. Yes, she’s doing it to ski at Worlds here. Do remember that Schleper should have skied during Vail ’99, but was injured in what were meant to be her home Worlds.
She’s earned this appearance. Schleper’s also a competitor, and that switch just doesn’t go off when an athlete retires. When I interviewed her before the 2010 Olympics, she could still recall a game of pond hockey, which she won over her brother, Hunter, back when they were kids.
Schleper’s in a tough position because she has no World Cup points and that puts her in the back of the start order. A course is pretty tracked out when you get to the 68th racer. On the other hand, she knows the hills and the next stop for GS — she’s not doing slalom — is Aspen.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.