The start of the first run was delayed an hour and moved farther down the hill to accommodate for windy conditions. The weather was warm, the snow coverage was minimal, and the course was slick, but that didn’t stop Mikaela Shiffrin from continuing her reign as Slalom Queen. The American kicked off her journey toward the slalom crystal globe by taking a 0.58-second victory over last year’s Levi slalom champion, Petra Vhlová of Slovakia, who finished second.
Despite a “scary moment” on the pitch of her second run, Shiffrin fought through it to hang on to the lead. The course exceeded her expectations remaining hard and fast, allowing her to push harder in moments of doubt.
“It’s the first race of the season, so there’s some nerves, there’s excitement, nobody knows how fast they are, so [Levi’s] always a really nice challenge,” Shiffrin panted at the end of her run.
This win has tied Shiffrin with Maria Hölf-Riesch’s record for the most slalom wins at the venue. Not only does this win add to her collection of World Cup victories (she now has 44), but it will also add to her collection of Finnish Lapland reindeer, the prize that comes with a win in Levi. After her 2013 win, she named her reindeer Rudolph. In 2016, she went with Sven. This year, she stuck with her trend of charismatic cartoon characters and opted to name her reindeer Mr. Gru, inspired by the character from Despicable Me.
Shiffrin is expected to excel in slalom, they don’t call her Slalom Queen for nothing after all. The real surprise today came from Bernadette Schild of Austria. The best performance Schild has ever had in Levi was a 17th place finish in 2010. She often didn’t qualify for a second run or finish during her other attempts at the venue. But today, after a mediocre start, the 28-year-old charged hard to rise through the ranks on her second run and snag third place on the podium.
“I was really angry and upset about my first run, so I changed everything in the second run. How I started, how I handled the steep part. I knew if I really pushed and everything worked out that I can be fast” she told FIS Alpine post-race.
Overall, the Austrians had a strong performance, showing their depth as a team in the slalom event with three racers in the top 10. Katharina Gallhuber took 7th and Katharina Liensberger took 8th, both 21-year-old athletes that have seen top-10 success on the circuit in recent years.
Being surrounded by a plethora of talent drives Schild to push harder in training, which she attributes to her result today. “I might be not the fastest, so I have to push and that’s really good for me. I’m really proud of my team, they did a really good job today. It’s really nice to be a part of such a strong, young team.”
Other notable performances from today came from Wendy Holdener of Switzerland and Anna Swenn Larsson of Sweden who stayed consistent during their first and second runs to hold on to 5th and 6th place. Frida Hansdotter, who was projected to be on the podium after the first run, couldn’t hold on and fell two places to finish the race in fourth place.
Americans Resi Stiegler, and Nina O’Brien, did not qualify for a second run. Stiegler finished run one in 52nd place, while O’Brien straddled a gate and did not finish.
The next women’s tech races will take place on November 24-25th in Killington, Vermont. If you’re based in the USA, this event can be viewed using the NBC Sports Gold Snow Pass, or on NBC and NBCSN.
If you can’t make it to the event and if you must watch from home, here’s the schedule:
- Giant Slalom, Second Run
- LIVE: 1:00-2:00 p.m. November 24th on NBCSN
- DELAYED: 3:00-4:30 p.m. November 24th on NBC
- Slalom, Second Run
- LIVE: 1:00-3:00 p.m. November 25th on NBC