Mikaela returns to World Cup for GS, slalom final stretch
Jasna, Slovakia, this weekend’s stop
After world championships, the World Cup seems so staid.
Let’s face it, we had 10 races in 14 days or 13-in-14 if one counts the parallel and team events — we don’t — at worlds in Cortina, Italy and then afterward there are only two or three weekend races.
It’s positively laid back.
All times Mountain
Giant slalom, first run, 1:30 a.m., Peacock
Giant slalom, second run, 4:30 a.m., Olympic Channel, Peacock
Giant slalom replay, 10 p.m., NBC Sports
Slalom, first run, 1:30 a.m., Peacock
Slalom, second run, 4:30 a.m. Olympic Channel, Peacock
Slalom replay, 9 p.m., NBC Sports
After Beaver Creek hosted world champs in 2015 — a massive work experience for a small-sized paper like the Vail Daily — Birds of Prey in December of that year seemed positively quaint with just three races.
I really wanted to do a video of me standing in front of Beaver Creek Resort with a blizzard blowing. I go all Bruce Banner/Incredible Hulk and rip my shirt off and scream, “IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?”
OK, bringing it back. The World Cup is back, having returned last weekend with speed events Val di Fassa, Italy, with Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami winning to downhills and Italy’s Federica Brignone taking the super-G with Gut-Behrami second in that race.
Mikaela Shiffrin returns to action this weekend in Jasna, Slovakia, with giant slalom Saturday and slalom Sunday. As we all recall, in our previous episode, Shiffrin was winning four medals at Worlds (gold in combined, silver in giant slalom and bronze in both super-G and slalom).
The $64,000 question, adjusted for inflation, is does Shiffrin’s performance in the GS at worlds carry over to the final three weeks of the season?
As Shiffrin has gone through the death of her father, COVID-19, and all the general awfulness of the last calendar year, her GS has struggled.
Yes, most ski racers would gladly donate vital organs to be having such a “poor” season as this — a World Cup win, a silver medal at worlds and sitting in fifth place in the points in GS.
Shiffrin isn’t most skiers. In seven World Cup or world champs GS starts this year, she has finished out of the podium four times. Yes, it sounds we’re really nit-picking her to death, just trying to find fault with her.
We’re not. In a stretch of racing that ends with her final GS race before her father passed last season, Shiffrin went 17 giant-slalom races from Jan. 27, 2018-December 28, 2019 with 6 wins, 13 podiums and just four non-podiums, a period of time that included both the 2018 Olympics and the 2019 worlds.
We started to see Shiffrin race like that old self at worlds. She raced well enough to win were it not for Gut-Behrami having a peerless race.
If Shiffrin and her camp — and it is a team effort — have found what was missing during her “annus horribilis,” this could be fun.
Italy’s Marta Bassino leads the GS with 460 points, followed by Tessa Worley (France, 336), Michelle Gisin (Switzerland, 212), Brignone (282) and Shiffrin (280).
Wanna globe? It’s up for grabs in slalom. Shiffrin trails Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova by 65 points and Austria’s Katharina Liensberger by 25 with four races, aka 400 points, to go.
Our bet is the Shiffrin-Vlhova iron grip of dominance of slalom on the World Cup is being joined by Liensberger to make it a troika. Liensberger busted up Shiffrin’s streak of four straight worlds gold medals in the discipline two weeks ago.
While Shiffrin said all the correct, diplomatic things about Liensberger at the time, Mikaela wrote afterward in a statement released by the U.S. Ski Team, “As far as slalom goes, truthfully, I was disappointed with my skiing as I don’t think it was reflective of either my current skiing or my team’s efforts to provide the absolute best and most efficient preparation to give me a shot at the slalom gold.”
Sounds like she’s motivated.