Sunday’s weather was a stark contrast from Saturday’s above freezing temperatures and rainfall. The thermometer plummeted overnight and created a rock hard surface on the Superstar slope at Killington, Vt., for the slalom race on Nov. 26. Light snow fell from the sky throughout the day, and the light on the course was quite flat. American superstar Mikaela Shiffrin was ready for it all thanks to her skills, training and, of course, her years of skiing in harsh East Coast conditions at Burke Mountain Academy.
She started her day by creating a 0.86-second cushion between her and the rest of the field. Then, in the second run, she showed the crowd what she’s made of when she increased her lead to 1.64 seconds, taking a thrilling win in front of an estimated 16,000 screaming fans.
“I think we all know the East Coast fans are just incredible, and it’s so cool that we’re having World Cups back here now. And last year, everyone was surprised at how big of a showing there was and how loud the crowd was and this year, everybody expected it, but it’s still such a nice feeling, especially for me, to come into the finish and I can hear everyone screaming and they’re just so supportive,” Shiffrin said.
Petra Vlhova, who won the first slalom of the season, managed to move up three spots in the second run to earn second place.
“It’s going to be a really cool rivalry actually this year,” Shiffrin said. “First of all, from what I’ve seen, she’s a great person. I respect everything that she’s said to me. She really wants to win, and she works really hard for it. It’s not like anybody else doesn’t, but I see something different in her that makes me want to be better.”
Austria’s Bernadette Schild held her position in the second run, walking away with her first World Cup podium finish of the season in third place. She also earned a podium at Squaw Valley last March, so the U.S. has a special place in her heart.
“I realized the crowd, they all stayed until the last racer first run and that’s amazing, and that’s really a race that I think all the racers love,” Schild said. “The crowd, they cheer for everybody, and that’s just really nice.”
It was the American’s first victory of the season after a fifth-place finish in the GS at Soelden, second place in the slalom at Levi, and a second-place result on Saturday at Killington. The last time Shiffrin won a World Cup was in March in front of a home crowd at Squaw Valley, Calif. In the start of this season, Shiffrin has been dealing with a few challenges including adjustments to her equipment and the pressure of performing for fans, her team, and herself.
“For me, last year, I felt more pressure with media, more pressure with sponsors. I didn’t feel like I was handling that very well,” she said. “This year, I’m actually better on that side of things, but I do still feel the pressure to ski well, to perform and to do it for my team and for the people who are closest to me and also for myself because, I mean, we spend so much time working, skiing, in the gym, putting in the effort, putting in the hours to just have basically 60 seconds or two minutes on the hill where we have some moments of greatness. And sometimes to me it feels like it’s crazy, like, ‘Why am I doing this?'”
Shiffrin seemed to handle the pressure of performing for the home crowd well at Killington. Two podium results, including a win, is nothing to be shy about. These are the kinds of results that Shiffrin wants to have all season including this February in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“I’m trying to actually peak almost every single weekend when I’m doing slalom, GS and super-G and some downhill, so it’s less of trying to have a huge peak for the Olympics and just trying to peak every single race and the Olympics is included in that, which makes it a little bit easier in a way because I don’t just have one goal for the Olympics this year,” she said. “I have a lot of goals that are equally as important to me.”
As hardcore ski racing fans know, the Olympic Winter Games are a strange beast for the elite racers of the world, which U.S. Ski & Snowboard CEO Tiger Shaw explained in a press conference early in the weekend. He said that winning the World Cup overall title is really the pinnacle of an athlete’s career, but for the world at large, expectations are different.
“The Olympics are two-and-a-half weeks every four years,” Shaw said. “That puts extraordinary pressure on a very short period of time. That said, we’re measured by Olympic medals as an organization. Those who aren’t familiar with our sport, who aren’t following it every day, they pay attention to medals.”
U.S. Ski & Snowboard will look to Shiffrin to bring home Olympic medals not only in slalom, but potentially in GS and even super-G. The U.S. Olympic team will not be named for a couple months, and it will be interesting to see which Americans will join Shiffrin in the technical races there. Resi Stiegler, who earned 20th place in the Killington slalom, is planning to compete in her third Olympic Games. Fans may also see other Killington starters like University of Vermont’s Paula Moltzan, Team CLIF Bar’s Lila Lapanja, or Groundswell Athletic‘s Megan McJames on the Olympic roster. Only time will tell.
Now, the women head to Lake Louise, Canada, for the speed events.
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Petra Vlhova (SVK) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Bernadette Schild (AUT) – Head / Head / Head
- Denise Feierabend (SUI) – Head / Head / Head
- Frida Hansdotter (SWE) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Anna Swenn-Larsson (SWE) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Katharina Gallhuber (AUT) – Atomic / Atomic / Atomic
- Chiara Costazza (ITA) – Dynastar / Look / Lange
- Marina Wallner (GER) – Fischer / Fischer / Fischer
- Michelle Gisin (SUI) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|6||24||506146||SWENN LARSSON Anna||1991||SWE||51.84||52.10||1:43.94||+3.03||21.62||40.00|
|20||27||197319||BAUD MUGNIER Adeline||1992||FRA||52.96||52.61||1:45.57||+4.66||33.25||11.00|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|49||426100||HOLTMANN Mina Fuerst||1995||NOR||54.27|
|Did not finish 1st run|