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The 24-year-old racing phenom Mikaela Shiffrin hasn’t skied super-G in more than a year, yet in her debut speed event this season she walked away with a World Championship bronze medal.
After snowfall and bad weather forced race officials to twice postpone the inaugural race of the 2021 Alpine World Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, the women’s and men’s super-G events finally got underway on the fabled Olympia delle Tofana track today.
As predicted, Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami capitalized on her string of recent super-G victories to finally claim World Championship Gold in the event. The Swiss skier collected a silver medal in downhill and bronze in super-G at the last World Championships, but until now, gold has eluded her in both the World Championships and Olympics.
Watch: Lara Gut-Behrami’s winning super-G run
“Sure, I was nervous today. I wanted to ski the way [I know I can],” Gut-Behrami said after the race. “Sometimes you put too much pressure on yourself. But today was the first time that I realized that my life wouldn’t change if I would win or not. I didn’t ski to win the gold medal. I skied to show [how I can ski].”
Corinne Suter, also from Switzerland, finished today’s super-G 0.34 seconds behind Lara Gut-Behrami to collect the silver medal.
Those who watched the women’s race today have begun to speculate that, had she not made a very costly mistake in the lower section of the course, Shiffrin could have beat Gut-Behrami and defended her World Championship Super-G title. Even with the mistake, Shiffrin finished only 0.47 seconds off the winning time.
Watch: Mikaela Shiffrin’s bronze medal-winning super-G run
But Shiffrin was quick to put those speculations to rest in a story posted to Instagram.
“Trust me, I get it—the mistake cost a lot of speed/time. But you gotta ski it to the finish, and I didn’t quite manage that. Lara did. So let’s leave the ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda…’ talk for another day cause today was still totally awesome and the Gold medal is where it belongs.”
In the end, Shiffrin is thrilled with her performance given her lack of speed training this season. Perhaps more importantly, Shiffrin had fun while skiing today—something she’s been struggling to get back to since the death of her father last year.
“I felt like I was carrying really good speed and I was having so much fun while I was skiing,” Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “For me, it’s just an amazing run on a hill I love to ski.”
American Breezy Johnson was also happy with her 15th-place finish today, her best result in super-G this season. Though Johnson hoped to be competitive in today’s super-G race, she has set her sights on the podium in the downhill, scheduled for Feb. 13.
“It’s great to get one race out of the way before the downhill this weekend, which I’m really looking forward to and definitely putting a lot of my hopes on,” she told U.S. Ski and Snowboard.
Fellow Americans Isabella Wright and AJ Hurt also impressed in their first-ever World Championship appearances, finishing 22nd and 29th, respectively. Teammate Jacqueline Wiles finished 32nd.
In the men’s super-G, Austrian Vincent Kriechmayr squeaked out the win by finishing 0.07 seconds ahead of Germay’s Romed Baumann to become the new men’s World Champion in the event.
Kriechmayr won silver in super-G and bronze in downhill at the 2019 World Championships in Are, Sweden. France’s Alexis Pinturault rounded out the podium in third.
It was a successful race for the men’s U.S. Ski Team, with all three starters finishing in the top 30. Travis Ganong led his teammates in eighth place, with Jared Goldberg finishing 15th and Bryce Bennett landing in 27th place.
Next up on the 2021 World Championship schedule is the women’s downhill, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 13.