The 2013-14 World Cup slalom season got rolling in Levi, Finland Saturday with a serious case of déjà vu.
It began much like the last ended, with Mikaela Shiffrin, Tina Maze and Maria Hoefl-Riesch battling it out for top honors. The outcome was the same, but the margin was quite a bit more lopsided, as Shiffrin was visibly in a league of her own, winning both runs with authority.
The 18-year-old world slalom champion skied something short of two perfect runs, making a major recovery on the steep in her first lap and nearly missing the third-to-last gate of the second. But at no point was there even an inkling of an appearance that she might not win this race.
“Maybe I was a little bit lucky in the first run, I can’t even really remember it,” said Shiffrin. “But I just wanted to take the second run like its own race and really hammer it. I was in the gate and like, ‘No mercy, charge down this course’ and I think I did.
“There’s definitely some relief there… one of my goals is to keep my slalom standings, and it’s nice to know I’m not that far off.”
The first run was characterized by unusually tight results, purportedly due to wind, which enabled several ladies from the back of the pack to make flip. The 30th fastest racer, Manuela Moelgg, posted a first-run time just 1.69 seconds behind that of Shiffrin.
“There was super strong wind, crazy uphill wind. Some people really didn’t have a chance,” said Canadian coach Hugues Ansermoz. “In the second run we started with the sun and then it went away and they were half in light, half in the dark.”
Last season’s overall champ Tina Maze slipped back from second to third position from the first run to the second, losing time gradually on then-leader Hoefl-Riesch. But Maze was all smiles in the finish area, just three weeks removed from an extremely disappointing GS opener in Soelden.
Last season’s winner in Levi, Hoefl-Riesch, led an impressive German squad, which qualified six ladies for the flip. In her second dive, the Olympic slalom champ was sluggish at the first split, but made up time in the midsection, then charged hard to the finish to set the time to beat. The result came just moments after the Austrian 18-year-old sporting bib 54, Christina Ager, tore the course apart with a blistering pace, which ultimately landed her in fourth on the day.
“It’s really cool to see a new group of girls coming up that’s like the next generation of girls from everywhere,” said Shiffrin. “It’s cool to see where they’re from, what they’re doing, how old they are and it makes me feel good to have a group of younger girls around me. I know if I was in their position it would be awesome to see a young girl winning and would think, if she can do it, why can’t I? And that’s my goal here, to inspire younger racers to get there and they did today.”
Canada’s Marie-Michele Gagnon had a bobble over a rollover at the top of her second pass but made a strong recovery to produce two solid runs and finish fifth, her first single-digit result in four starts at Levi.
“I’m stoked – just super happy that this race brought me fifth place and so, so happy for Elli. She was awesome today,” said Gagnon. “It was a weird race – it was a bit of a free-for-all. I knew I wasn’t far out after the first run. I skied just like I do in training – it was just like a normal run.”
Her teammate Elli Terwiel skied to a surprising finish on the first run and ultimately finished 11th for a career-best result. Terwiel has now fulfilled half of the Canadian team’s Olympic qualifying criteria which requires two top-12 World Cup results for a spot in Sochi.
“When I came down at the end of the first run I was fourth and I did a little bit of an open-jawed spin-around in the finish. It was a little too good to be true,” said the 24-year-old Terwiel. “A lot of things can go sideways so I tried to just focus on my skiing and the things I’ve been working on in training this summer.”
Americans Resi Stiegler and Paula Moltzan also started, but did not make the top-30 final. Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso did not compete in favor of additional training in Colorado.
With the win, Shiffrin picks up an early 100 points in the slalom standings. She also received a reindeer, which she promptly named “Rudolf.”
View our gallery of photos from today’s race here.
By Hank McKee
Women’s World Cup slalom, Levi, Finland, Nov. 16, 2013
Equipment – Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Shiffrin Atomic Atomic Atomic
2 Hoefl-Riesch Head Lange Head
3 Maze Stoeckli Lange Atomic
4 Ager Atomic Atomic Atomic
5 Gagnon Rossignol Rossignol Rossignol
6 Geiger Rossignol Rossignol Rossignol
7 Loeseth Voelkl Tecnica Marker
8 Hansdotter Rossignol Rossignol Rossignol
9 Swenn-Larsson Head Head Head
10 Feierabend Head Head Head
Women’s World Cup Slalom, Levi, Finland, Nov. 16, 2013.… It is the second of 32 races on the women’s 2013-14 World Cup tour. … The first of eight women’s slaloms.… It is the 15th Cup race – all of them slaloms – hosted by Levi, the first of a two race set that includes a men’s slalom Nov. 17.
Windy… snow is blowing around on course.
After first run Shiffrin lead is .52… 30th place(Anne-Sophie Barthet) is 1.7… 11 first run DNF’s include Marlies Schild, Michaela Kirchgasser and Wendy Holdener.
It is the fifth World Cup win for Mikaela Shiffrin, all in slalom.… It is her second score at Levi having placed third last season.… It is the 263rd US Cup win.… Five slalom wins ties her with Bode Miller for fifth all time among US skiers.… Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney each have nine wins, Steve Mahre owns eight and Kristina Koznick six. She matches Christin Cooper and Kiki Cutter for 11th all-time on the US World Cup victory list.
It is the 73rd career World Cup podium result for Maria Hoefl-Riesch… her 24th in slalom.… It is the seventh podium scored at Levi including victories 11/2012, 11/2009 and 2/2004.
It is the 63rd career World Cup podium result for Tina Maze… her 15th in slalom.… It is the first podium at Levi for Maze in four scoring finishes.
It is the sixth World Cup top five for Marie-Michele Gagnon… her fourth in slalom. Her previous best at Levi had been 10th last season.…It is a career-best World Cup result for Elli Terwiel and just her fifth scoring result.
The race represents first scoring results for Martina Dubovska, Marlene Schmotz, Maren Wiesler, Charlotta Saefvenberg, and Christina Ager.
Shiffrin takes over the lead of the women’s overall World Cup standings 140-100 over Soelden winner Lara Gut (did not complete).… Kathrin Zettel (15th in race) is third overall with 96 total points.
Austria leads the women’s Nations Cup 424-343 over France.… Germany is third at 276 and the US fourth with 267pts…. Canada sits eighth with 95pts.
Results — Levi Women’s World Cup Slalom
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||FIS Points|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
This article was corrected on Nov. 16 to properly reflect Ager’s nationality as Austrian.