Saturday’s giant slalom race in Killington, Vermont saw the rise of the Italian tech team, as Marta Bassino, a 23-year-old Italian GS specialist won the first World Cup race of her career in front of 18,000 cheering fans. Next to her, stood last year’s giant slalom winner, Federica Brignone in second, and crowd-favorite, Mikaela Shiffrin took third. Bassino has been gunning for a top spot on the podium since she started on the World Cup tour in 2014, and while she has often found herself in contention for the podium after the first run, the young athlete has not been able to put two runs together, until today.
Wind played a major factor in Saturday’s race, causing the start to be moved down to the reserve, and shortening the Superstar course. The athletes did not have much to work with in terms of length, and the beginning of the course did not generate much speed coming into the pitch, making the race more of a sprint and a battle of will. Brignone, brought drive and grit to her second run, pushing forward to break onto the podium from seventh position. But it was not enough to top the show put on by her teammate, Bassino.
Bassino and Brignone have shared the podium twice before, once in Kronplatz and once in Aspen. Even though Brignone had hoped to win for the second year in a row, finishing behind a teammate made the day an overall success.
“I’m really really happy about my second run because I pushed like I knew I could, as I wanted, and how I have been in training,” said Brignone. “It’s better to finish second to a teammate than to another because it shows all of the hard work done, and I’m happy to share. When alone, you are the only one happy. But when you win with a teammate the atmosphere is overall better.”
“It shows that we are doing a great job with the team, and it’s important because it shows we are moving in the right direction,” added Bassino. “We are a great team, we are like a family.”
The two podium finishers were not the only Italians to have performed well at Killington on Saturday. Sofia Goggia, who tends to be more well-known on the speed side of the circuit, has chosen to work giant slalom back into her schedule, and the hard work in training has paid off. Starting in bib 54 and at a major disadvantage skiing from the back of the pack, Goggia was still capable of pushing past the majority of the field to finish just outside of the top 10 in 11th overall. Francesca Marsaglia and Laura Pirovano also finished in the top 30 in 26th and 30th respectively.
Shiffrin unfortunately was not able to pull out a giant slalom win in front of the home crowd. In the past at Killington, she used to feel the weight of the world on her shoulders as she stepped into the start gate, hoping to put on a show for the fans that flocked in droves to watch her, her teammates, and her competitors ski. Third may be a disappoint when she does not feel like she has skied her best, but she says now that she has experience skiing in Killington, she doesn’t feel the same pressure she once did as she pushes out of the start to the sound of a roaring crowd.
“The first year, I was pretty miserable,” said Shiffrin. “I did feel a lot of pressure. But a fan sent me an Instagram message that said, ‘I can tell that you’re feeling this pressure, and I just want you to know that we’re just happy to be here.’ By this time, I’ve realized that people want to see an American on top but at the end of the day, nobody really cares. When I don’t win, I’ve realized people move on really quick from that, and maybe I should too? That mindset has helped me a little bit more.”
Fellow American, Nina O’Brien, scored her second set of points in Killington in Saturday’s giant slalom. As a younger skier working to establish herself on the World Cup, the big crowd in Killington does not psych her out. In fact, it fuels her to perform. And while she’s excited to put two runs together and get into the top 30 after missing the mark in Levi the weekend prior, O’Brien is looking ahead, focused on how she can be more consistent so the finishes continue to improve. T
“I was trying not to overthink the moment and just be comfortable and go for it,” said O’Brien. “I had a solid race in Soelden too, and that gave me the confidence to know I have the speed. I feel like I’m skiing really well and I’m starting to show that in races, although I’m still struggling to get a full run down when I’m trying to be aggressive and go for it.”
Fellow American starters, Keely Cashman and Storm Klomhaus did not finish their first runs. AJ Hurt did not qualify for a second run. Paula Moltzan had been scheduled to start but opted out due to a lingering back injury procured in Levi so she could perform in her speciality, the slalom, on Sunday.
The women will continue competing in Killington on Sunday in the slalom.
- Marta Bassino (ITA): 1:38.19 – Salomon/Salomon
- Federica Brignone (ITA): +0.26 – Rossignol/Rossignol
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA): +0.29 – Atomic/Atomic
- Michelle Gisin (SUI): +0.31 – Rossignol/Rossignol
- Tessa Worley (FRA): +0.50 – Rossignol/Rossignol
- Petra Vlhova (SVK): +0.65 – Rossignol/Rossignol
- Viktoria Rebensburg (GER): +0.98 – Stoeckli/Lange
- Wendy Holdener (SUI): +1.12 – Head / Head
- Mina Fuerst Holtmann (NOR): +1.29 – Volkl/Marker/Dalbello
- Meta Hrovat (SLO): +1.34 – Salomon/Salomon