The positive energy in Killington on giant slalom Saturday was tangible. After the FIS decided to forgo injection, the snow on Superstar Saturday morning was grippy, what many would describe as hero snow. The racers were feeling confident, feeding off energy from clean, responsive turns. In such great conditions, when every racer is skiing to the best of their ability and simultaneously feeding off the energy of a crowd 18,500 fans strong, it’s hard to find separation.
But Ragnhild Mowinckel came out in force on her first run and did just that, distancing herself from Federica Brignone by 0.37 after laying down clean, fast turns that outshone all the rest.
The stage was set for a tough second run with the Norwegian ahead, but nothing rivaled the show put on by Brignone who pulled ahead of Mowinckel, winning the race by 0.49 seconds.
“Here the crowd, you can feel it when you’re coming down,” she said at the post-race press conference. “I could feel them, during my race actually, the first run and the second run.”
Brignone skied aggressively, and it almost cost her after nearly skiing out a few gates from the finish. At that point, she thought her mistake would set her off the podium, so seeing a green light as she came out of her tuck was more than a pleasant surprise.
“After my mistake, I thought, this is going to be really bad because I lost a lot of positions, but then it wasn’t. And it was unexpected for sure.”
The European racers seemed impressed and humbled by the crowd, excited to see how many fans came out to cheer them on. Brignone arrived late to press conferences because she was outside signing so many autographs for young fans, fans who reminded her of herself when she was a young racer. Mowinckel even apologized to fans for not having enough bibs to give away.
“This is why it’s so fun to ski race, you feel kind of invincible while you’re skiing” Mowinckel added. “When you actually cross the finish line, you feel like everybody’s cheering and it doesn’t matter whether you are from the States or not. Everybody cheers for you, and that’s really cool being a foreigner here. They show support for me, and I want to do the same for them.”
Third place finisher, Austrian Stephanie Brunner, agreed that they were more than happy to engage with the excited crowd. Killington is Brunner’s first time on the podium, so for her, this race was extra special.
“I feel like I am at home at an Austrian race. There are many many people here to cheer with us, and it’s amazing,” she said. Brunner and the rest of the podium finishers will skip slalom tomorrow in order to get to Lake Louise to prepare for speed races.
Despite awesome conditions, many of the women seemed to struggle in the middle of the course, particularly in the second run, when the sun fell and shaded the terrain before the pitch. But if the racers could carve cleanly through the problem spots, and make it to the pitch, that’s where the real battle began.
Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, who had a first run that put her in position for the podium, hooked a tip on the pitch and DNF’d. Tessa Worley of France came in late after a few mistakes in the middle, and also fell short of the podium after trying to catch up at the bottom of the course.
After falling in training in the morning, Mikaela Shiffrin skied a conservative first run and wound up in 6th, 0.67 seconds out from Mowinckel. In her second run, the American favorite skied with an undeniable confidence, handling the terrain more impressively than most racers before her, but fell short of the podium and ended in fourth place.
“The first run I had some really good skiing, but some of the turns I was just not aggressive enough. The second was much more aggressive and I moved up a couple of spots but it wasn’t quite enough,” she told Ski Racing after the race. “I was happy with my skiing, I just wasn’t happy with the intensity.”
As for her teammates, AJ Hurt DNF’d her first run after skiing out, as well as Nina O’Brien, who hip checked a couple of gates away from the finish. Abi Jewett and Tricia Mangan of the U.S. Ski Team, alongside Foreste Peterson of Team X Alpine, did not qualify for a second run.
The women will continue their chase for the podium in Killington tomorrow during the slalom event, which will kick off at 9:00 am EST.
- Federica Brignone (ITA) 1:51.33 Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR) +0.49 Head/Head/Head
- Stephanie Brunner (AUT) +0.78 Head/Head/Head
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) +0.99 Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Tess Worley (FRA) +1.01 Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Wendy Holdener (SUI) +1.31 Head/Head/Head
- Petra Vlhova (SVK) +1.33 Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Anna Veith (AUT) +1.36 Head/Head/Head
- Katharina Liensberger (AUT) +1.60 Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Frida Hansdotter (SWE) +2.10 Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
Click here for official FIS results.