Federica Brignone has not stood on a World Cup podium since the final GS of 2016-17 when she won at Aspen, Colo., but she ended the drought with a win in the giant slalom at Lienz, Austria, on Dec. 29. Her victory was by a narrow margin, 0.04 seconds over second-place finisher Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany and 0.08 seconds over third-place finisher Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S.
“Today, I’m so happy,” the Italian said. “I didn’t expect to win today, for sure, but I wanted to be good and maybe come back on the podium. We were so close. I have to say that I’m lucky, too, because I mean Mikaela and Vicky, they are really, really close to me, but that was the first run, too. I think that’s a tough race.”
The win marks an important moment in Brignone’s comeback. The Italian skipped the World Cup opener in Soelden after suffering an adductor injury during summer training in South America and returned to racing in late November at Killington, Vt. The injury did not require surgery, but she did do extensive physical therapy to recover. The injury is reportedly still bothering her.
“I’m not 100 percent, and I’m not healthy, not still, but it’s going better and better,” Brignone said.
While Rebensburg was not able to secure her third win of the season after losing time on the second run, she did regain the red leader bib from Mikaela Shiffrin. The American may have a nearly 400-point lead in the overall standings over the German, but the GS standings are neck-in-neck. France’s Tessa Worley and Italy’s Manuela Moelgg are also within striking distance of the red GS bib under the right circumstances.
“In the end, a pretty good day, for sure. With my second place, I’m quite happy with it,” the German shared. “It was really tight, so the first time, when you’re in the finish, for sure, your thoughts go a bit about those four hundredths, but in the end, I’m really, really happy about it that I could manage to bring everything down more or less good.”
Watching the second run, it was easy to see that time was lost on the bottom split. The course opened up a bit and athletes who let their skis run made up quite a bit of time. The course also sat in shadows and the track, as Shiffrin shared, was bumpy.
“It was dark,” Shiffrin said. “I actually felt pretty good with the surface. It’s a little bumpy here and there, but it was okay. It was tough in just a couple spots that were really important and otherwise, I had a lot of fun skiing it actually.”
While the American is always looking for the win, earning her 53rd World Cup podium is nothing to laugh at. The American has been on the podium in all, but three World Cup races she started this season.
“For sure, I’m really happy with my performance over the two days, but it always stings a little bit when you think, ‘Ah, third place. Eight hundredths from the lead or four hundredths from second place,’” she said. “It’s really close, but it means it’s a good competition for the women, and that’s really exciting for us. It’s exciting for the fans, and I definitely was attacking on the second run even more than the first run, so I can be happy with that.”
Shiffrin and the rest of the tech athletes are entering a particularly busy stretch of the season, which continues in Oslo, Norway, for the city event on Jan. 1 followed by the slalom in Zagreb, Croatia. It will be a challenge for multi-event skiers like the American to keep their energy levels high.
“It’s really busy now,” Shiffrin said. “I mean I had two days off before we came into these races, and I sort of thought, ‘Those are my days off for the next two or three weeks!’ Yeah, we all saw the schedule this year, and we know that it’s going to be busy now, so there’s not a lot of time for rest, but I’m, for sure, motivated for these races. I’m excited.”
Off the podium, there were a few other notable performances particularly from Slovenian athletes. Meta Hrovat came from bib 31 to finish in eighth place–her first top 10 World Cup finish. Her teammate Tina Robnik had a smoking fast first run that moved her from bib 23 into third position. She, unfortunately, lost momentum on the second run, finishing the day in 11th place.
“In the first run, the result really surprised me,” Robnik said. “…This is proof that I am able to get to the top and gives me additional self-confidence in the future. ”
Slovenia’s Ana Drev also had a solid day, earning a sixth-place result, just 0.53 seconds away from the win.
In addition to Shiffrin, the Americans were represented by Patricia Mangan, who did not qualify for a second run, and AJ Hurt, who did not finish the first run.
Hurt comes from Squaw Valley, Calif. Born in 2000, she was the second youngest athlete on the start list, and U.S. Ski Team coaches decided to give Hurt her second World Cup start after she earned two top-5 finishes in the Panorama GS races earlier in December. The young American is currently second in the NorAm GS standings, 76 points ahead of next-best American and World Cup regular Megan McJames.
The World Cup athletes will kick off 2018 with the city event in Oslo, Norway, on Jan. 1.
1. Federica Brignone (ITA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
2. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) – Stoeckli / Lange / Marker
3. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4. Tessa Worley (FRA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
5. Stephanie Brunner (AUT) – Head / Head / Head
6. Ana Drev (SLO) – Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
7. Petra Vlhova (SVK) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
8. Meta Hrovat (SLO) – Stoeckli / Lange / Marker
9. Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR) – Head / Head / Head
10. Lara Gut (SUI) – Head / Head / Head
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|23||21||197124||FRASSE SOMBET Coralie||1991||FRA||1:04.49||1:03.37||2:07.86||+2.34||18.27||8|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|55||299388||BERTANI Luisa Matilde Maria||1996||ITA||1:05.77||0|
|45||425921||HAUGEN Kristine Gjelsten||1992||NOR||1:05.16||0|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|35||6536392||HURT A J||2000||USA||0|
|34||426100||HOLTMANN Mina Fuerst||1995||NOR||0|
|20||197319||BAUD MUGNIER Adeline||1992||FRA||0|