Raptor’s giant slalom a big day for the underdogs | VailDaily.com

Raptor’s giant slalom a big day for the underdogs

Melanie Wong
Canada's Erin Mielzynski leans in the gate as she races through the lower section of the course during the women's giant-slalom race on Sunday at Beaver Creek. Mielzynski, who started the race with bib No. 57, finished in 16th place after her second run.
Dominique Taylor | dtaylor@vaildaily.com |

BEAVER CREEK — Canada’s Erin Mielzynski was jumping with excitement after crossing the finish line at Sunday’s Raptor Women’s World Cup giant slalom race.

She made the flip, or the second run of the race, and finished 16th overall in the race. It was her best ever giant slalom finish and first time making it into the second round.

“When I came down and saw I had made the top 30, I was really excited because it’s a step in the right direction for me,” she said.

Giant slalom is a big chance for underdogs to make their mark, and the Raptor GS was no exception — the best downhill racers often have trouble translating their speed into the more precise turns of GS, while technical specialists like Mikaela Shiffrin can struggle to add the speed they need. On Sunday’s giant slalom at the Raptor Women’s World Cup race, it was a day of surprise results. Here’s a look at a few of our favorite underdog stories from the slopes.

Mielzynski and Team Canada

The 23-year-old Canadian surprised everyone with her big runs, including herself. She came into the race with a bib number of 57th, nearly at the end of the start list. She’s had six top-10 World Cup finishes in her career, and none in giant slalom. To even make the top 30 was a big jump for her.

“For a few years I didn’t do any GS,” she said. “Last summer, they decided to start training me for some GS. I had two World Cup (giant slalom) races last year that didn’t got well. I had a lot of technical changes to make. My technical skiing was not good, and it’s an ongoing process.”

It was a big day for the Canadians overall — the team put three skiers in the top 20.

The Swedish comeback

Jessica Lindell-Vikarby isn’t a regular on the podium for any event, as evidenced by the number of reporters who started madly searching for information on the Swedish skier when she placed first on the initial run.

The 29-year-old skier is known more for her super-G than giant slalom, and she has been on the World Cup circuit since 2002. She’s only had three other podium finishes, all in super-G before 2010.

“I’ve only been on the top once,” she said at the awards ceremony. “I’ve been working hard on my GS.”

Speedsters gone technical

Tina Weirather, as the daughter of two Olympic ski racers, has the genetics to be a top ski racer, but she had yet to have a good result in giant slalom until today.

She took second in the downhill at the Raptor, crashed out in the super-G and redeemed herself Sunday in the giant slalom.

She logged the fastest second run in the field, skiing with precision. Like the other podium finishers, she said she has been working on her giant slalom racing.

Climbing the ladder

There were a number of other unseeded skiers who had impressive top 25 results on Sunday. Standouts include Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel, who started the day with bib No. 40 and finished in eighth place overall; Nina Loseth, also of Norway, who started the day in 34 and moved up to 12th place; Italy’s Francesca Marsaglia, who moved from 52nd to 22nd; and Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec, who moved from 67th to 23rd.

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and mwong@vaildaily.com.

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