SOELDEN, Austria – Until the 2015 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season opener in Soelden, Austria, Federica Brignone of Italy had stood on the podium seven times without recording a single victory. All that changed on the Rettenbach glacier in the kickoff to the 2015-16 race season as Brignone completed two nearly flawless giant slalom runs down a slope so icy the 14,000 fans in attendance could practically see their reflections while watching the ladies tackle the courses.

The result couldn’t have come at a more critical time in Brignone’s career, as the 25-year-old giant slalom skier contemplated retirement after a challenging end to the 2014-15 winter.

“This year I worked a lot on my physical strength. I was really happy because after two runs I feel OK and usually I’m dead. I’m also really happy I worked on my mind because last year … it was a good season but then World Championships didn’t go well and I had problems at the end of the season with my GS. I wasn’t total happy so I said I have to improve, I have to keep on working, and I want to make this season good because if not I don’t know if I am going to be able to handle more seasons.”

Brignone held nearly a second lead over last season’s victor, American Mikaela Shiffrin, after the first run. Although Shiffrin was pleased with her opening attack on the Rettenbach, she knew Brignone would be hard to touch unless she made a similar mistake to one in 2011 when the Italian fell in the second run while holding the race lead.

“I heard that (Brignone) had nearly a perfect run, and I can’t wait to watch it because it’s probably gorgeous skiing and really powerful. I looked at the time and was like – what can you do?” Shiffrin said between runs.

The race wasn’t meant to slip between Brignone’s fingers yet again as she also achieved a lifelong goal of sporting the red leader’s bib heading into the second giant slalom race of the season.

“If I wasn’t in first place until now, it’s because I didn’t deserve to be,” said Brignone. “I was pretty nervous because that was the second time in my life with the lead after the first run. The other time it was here but I fell in the second.”

Shiffrin’s valiant effort on the second run shaved one-tenth off Brignone’s lead but was only enough for the second step on the podium. Still, the slalom ace was all smiles at the awards ceremony in the finish area as she struggled to uncork a champagne bottle. No longer a teenager, she is still only 20 years old.

“I had a couple bobbles but it’s because I was going for it, and that’s a really cool place for me to be right now,” said Shiffrin. “Last year I felt like (Soelden) wasn’t a really great gauge of how the season was going to play out but right now I feel really confident because I was fast at the top and the bottom which is a little bit more like the other races we have – a little bit flatter in terrain – but we won’t see another pitch like this for a while. I wish I could have maybe attacked more, stayed more on line too on the pitch, but the top and bottom (were good) and that’s a good gauge. Just feeling like I can charge down a course and maybe take some risks and actually pull it off – I’ve never felt that before.”

Shiffrin is a team of one, but she trained with the Germans and Norwegians in the weeks heading into the opener and was also with the U.S. women’s speed team in Chile over the summer.

“(The course) was super icy, and I think everyone was a little intimidated in inspection. But I kind of took the mentality to attack, and I’m so excited actually because I did,” Shiffrin said.

The top four skiers remained unchanged from the first run to race’s end despite a hard-charging effort by Swiss star Lara Gut, wearing bib 16, in an attempt to overtake Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather for the final step on the podium.

“Well I didn’t really think it was possible to beat (Gut) in the second run because she did a way better job in the first run. She had a higher start number and was only one-tenth behind me so I knew she was going to be really strong. I just went all in and tried my best,” said Weirather.

Weirather credited her new coach who previously worked with Hermann Maier and also the U.S. Ski Team with helping her achieve a first podium at Soelden.

“I have a new coach, Andi Evers, and that’s helped me a lot,” she said.

Other noteworthy takeaways from the opening women’s race of the year included a total of five Italian women landing in the top 15 and Frenchwoman Tessa Worley moving from bib 15 to fifth with the second-fastest second run of the day. Viktoria Rebensburg won the second run by three-tenths after sitting in 12th after the first. The German ultimately ended the day in sixth.

The women’s World Cup circuit moves to Levi, Finland, next where the ladies will contest the opening slalom race of the season on Nov. 14.

View more photos from today’s race here.


The Scoop

By Hank McKee

  1. Brignone Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
  2. Shiffrin Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
  3. Weirather Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
  4. Gut Head/Head/Head
  5. Worley Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
  6. Rebensburg Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
  7. Hector Head/Head/Head
  8. Brem Volkl/Fischer/Marker
  9. Curtoni Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
  10. Hansdotter Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
  • Women’s World Cup Giant Slalom, Soelden, Austria, Oct. 24, 2015. … It is the first World Cup race of the 49th season, the first of 41 women’s races and first of nine women’s giant slaloms. … It is the 31st World Cup race hosted by Soelden, the first held in 1993. … Soelden has hosted the World Cup opening race since 1998.
  • Races in the opening weekend and at World Cup Finals (in St. Moritz this season) are the only races on the World Cup calendar in which no effort is made to reschedule in the event of cancellation.
  • Mikaela Shiffrin and Anna Fenninger tied for the win in this race last season. It remains Shiffin’s only World Cup GS victory; Fenninger won four GS races last season alone.
  • It is the first career World Cup win for Federica Brignone. … It is her eighth World Cup GS podium. She had previously been second four times, the most recent in 2012. She was third at Aspen last season. … It is the first Italian win at Soelden since Denise Karbon in 2007.
  • It is the 25th career World Cup podium for Mikaela Shiffrin … her fifth in GS. … She tied for the win at Soelden last season.
  • It is the 21st career World Cup podium for Tina Weirather … her first at Soelden and her fourth in GS. … She was fifth at Soelden in 2013 and tenth in 2014.
  • Marie-Pier Prefontaine matches her seventh best career World Cup finish. … Her previous best at Soelden had been 19th in 2012. … It is the fifth score at Soelden for Marie-Michele Gagnon, topped by a sixth in 2012.
  • The top four finishers did not change from the first run to the end of the second.
  • Italy leads the women’s Nations Cup 208-81 over Sweden. … The U.S. is third with 80 points and Canada ninth with 22pts.

Results

 1  2  297601 BRIGNONE Federica 1990 ITA  1:10.11  1:14.16  2:24.27  0.00
 2  5  6535237 SHIFFRIN Mikaela 1995 USA  1:11.06  1:14.06  2:25.12  +0.85  5.77
 3  7  355050 WEIRATHER Tina 1989 LIE  1:11.53  1:13.99  2:25.52  +1.25  8.49
 4  16  516138 GUT Lara 1991 SUI  1:11.62  1:14.04  2:25.66  +1.39  9.44
 5  15  196928 WORLEY Tessa 1989 FRA  1:12.19  1:13.80  2:25.99  +1.72  11.68
 6  1  205218 REBENSBURG Viktoria 1989 GER  1:13.07  1:13.48  2:26.55  +2.28  15.49
 7  6  506399 HECTOR Sara 1992 SWE  1:11.64  1:15.04  2:26.68  +2.41  16.37
 8  4  55898 BREM Eva-Maria 1988 AUT  1:12.41  1:14.74  2:27.15  +2.88  19.56
 9  9  296509 CURTONI Irene 1985 ITA  1:12.03  1:15.14  2:27.17  +2.90  19.70
 10  10  505679 HANSDOTTER Frida 1985 SWE  1:13.47  1:13.82  2:27.29  +3.02  20.51
 11  3  296729 FANCHINI Nadia 1986 ITA  1:12.86  1:14.51  2:27.37  +3.10  21.06
 12  17  296259 MOELGG Manuela 1983 ITA  1:13.37  1:14.13  2:27.50  +3.23  21.94
 13  20  196725 BARIOZ Taina 1988 FRA  1:13.22  1:14.33  2:27.55  +3.28  22.28
 14  23  297910 CURTONI Elena 1991 ITA  1:13.29  1:14.65  2:27.94  +3.67  24.93
 15  8  106825 PREFONTAINE Marie-Pier 1988 CAN  1:12.74  1:15.26  2:28.00  +3.73  25.34
 16  42  298323 GOGGIA Sofia 1992 ITA  1:13.18  1:14.88  2:28.06  +3.79  25.74
 17  31  196726 BARTHET Anne-Sophie 1988 FRA  1:13.89  1:14.27  2:28.16  +3.89  26.42
 18  12  425771 LOESETH Nina 1989 NOR  1:14.08  1:14.15  2:28.23  +3.96  26.90
 19  14  55759 KIRCHGASSER Michaela 1985 AUT  1:13.32  1:15.04  2:28.36  +4.09  27.78
 20  49  516394 SUTER Jasmina 1995 SUI  1:13.68  1:14.90  2:28.58  +4.31  29.28
 21  26  505886 KLING Kajsa 1988 SWE  1:14.43  1:14.24  2:28.67  +4.40  29.89
 22  11  505760 PIETILAE-HOLMNER Maria 1986 SWE  1:13.43  1:15.42  2:28.85  +4.58  31.11
 23  28  56087 SIEBENHOFER Ramona 1991 AUT  1:13.60  1:15.29  2:28.89  +4.62  31.38
 24  30  306249 HASEGAWA Emi 1986 JPN  1:14.20  1:14.74  2:28.94  +4.67  31.72
 25  24  105269 GAGNON Marie-Michele 1989 CAN  1:14.34  1:14.75  2:29.09  +4.82  32.74
 26  38  516280 HOLDENER Wendy 1993 SUI  1:14.37  1:14.86  2:29.23  +4.96  33.69
 27  25  565331 LAVTAR Katarina 1988 SLO  1:14.41  1:14.83  2:29.24  +4.97  33.76
Did not start 1st run
 21  297702 MARSAGLIA Francesca 1990 ITA
Did not qualify for 2nd run
 70  665009 SHKANOVA Maria 1989 BLR
 69  155503 KLICNAROVA Pavla 1988 CZE
 67  565320 FERK Marusa 1988 SLO
 66  405138 JELINKOVA Adriana 1995 NED
 63  516334 CHABLE Charlotte 1994 SUI
 62  536481 SCHLEPER Sarah 1979 MEX
 61  206408 WEINBUCHNER Susanne 1991 GER
 60  485563 PROSTEVA Elena 1990 RUS
 56  197215 MASSIOS Marie 1992 FRA
 54  506350 EKLUND Nathalie 1992 SWE
 52  307493 ANDO Asa 1996 JPN
 51  56199 KAPPAURER Elisabeth 1994 AUT
 50  538284 MCJAMES Megan 1987 USA
 47  506664 FJAELLSTROEM Magdalena 1995 SWE
 46  206444 HOESL Simona 1992 GER
 45  425880 SEJERSTED Lotte Smiseth 1991 NOR
 44  197124 FRASSE SOMBET Coralie 1991 FRA
 43  197497 MIRADOLI Romane 1994 FRA
 41  56217 BRUNNER Stephanie 1994 AUT
 40  206355 DUERR Lena 1991 GER
 39  155699 PAULATHOVA Katerina 1993 CZE
 36  107387 CRAWFORD Candace 1994 CAN
 27  516284 GISIN Michelle 1993 SUI
Did not finish 2nd run
 34  225525 TILLEY Alexandra 1993 GBR
 22  298124 AGNELLI Nicole 1992 ITA
 13  425929 MOWINCKEL Ragnhild 1992 NOR
Did not finish 1st run
 71  95050 KIRKOVA Maria 1986 BUL
 68  705423 VLHOVA Petra 1995 SVK
 65  435334 GASIENICA-DANIEL Maryna 1994 POL
 64  506341 WIKSTROEM Emelie 1992 SWE
 59  197616 ALPHAND Estelle 1995 FRA
 58  56367 GALLHUBER Katharina 1997 AUT
 57  565373 ROBNIK Tina 1991 SLO
 55  56315 TRUPPE Katharina 1996 AUT
 53  197651 DIREZ Clara 1995 FRA
 48  56282 RESCH Stephanie 1995 AUT
 37  107532 TOMMY Mikaela 1995 CAN
 35  506348 STAALNACKE Ylva 1992 SWE
 33  56174 HAASER Ricarda 1993 AUT
 32  56128 HUETTER Cornelia 1992 AUT
 29  298694 PICHLER Karoline 1994 ITA
 19  565268 DREV Ana 1985 SLO
 18  299276 BASSINO Marta 1996 ITA
Article Tags: Alpine, Top Rotator, Top Story

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C.J. Feehan
Former editor in chief
- As a USSA Level 300 alpine coach and official, Christine J. Feehan spent more than a decade training elite athletes at some of America's preeminent ski academies – Burke, Sugar Bowl, and Killington – prior to joining the staff at Ski Racing in 2011. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Skidmore College and currently resides in Vermont.
UP NEXT
Oct 25 2015
Ligety lays it down in first run at Soelden
Hirscher sits second at less than two-tenths back.
LAST UP
Oct 24 2015
Brignone takes big lead in first run at Soelden
Defending champion Mikaela Shiffrin sitting runner-up heading into second run.

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