If the first race of the 2019-20 World Cup Tour is any indication, we’re in for one exciting season of ski racing. In only her third World Cup start, 17-year-old Alice Robinson from New Zealand wowed the crowd and fellow racers by narrowly crossing the finish line ahead of defending World Cup Overall and GS Champion Mikaela Shiffrin to secure her first World Cup victory. Shiffrin, who led Robinson by 0.14 seconds in the first run, had to settle for second overall in the end, with France’s Tessa Worley rounding out the podium in third.
View full results from the race here.
After last season’s bumpy start in snowy conditions, the women’s opening giant slalom race in Sölden, Austria went off without a hitch on Saturday, Oct. 26 under clear skies and prime course conditions, allowing the world’s best women skiers to push themselves on the technical Rettenbach course.
Starting with bib number 4, Shiffrin skied the most direct, fluid line on a course with a steep slope that tapers into a very flat finish to complete her first run 1.24 seconds ahead of Worley. No one came close to Shiffrin’s time until Robinson, starting with bib 9, surprised everyone with a stellar run that put her only 0.14 seconds behind Shiffrin going into the second run. That tight margin proved just enough to ultimately overtake Shiffrin after the second run.
“I’m pretty shocked but super happy and super excited,” Robinson said about securing her first World Cup victory. “I had a feeling I was really going to like this slope. And to be able to pull it off on the day is amazing. I was a bit nervous for the second run, but I just tried to hold it together.”
Watch: 'Mikaela Out of the Gate'
“Alice skied incredible today, just like she skied in Andorra last year,” said a gracious Shiffrin after the race. Robinson, who qualified for last year’s World Cup final in Soldeu, Andorra by winning the Junior World Championship Giant Slalom, took second place in the GS, just 0.30 seconds behind Shiffrin, marking her first World Cup podium in just her second World Cup start.
Robinson’s sudden rise to the top comes as no surprise to her coaching and support team, big names who hitched their wagon to Robinson after spotting her potential on the Junior circuit, including coaches Jeff Fergus and Chris Knight, who coached Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso, and sponsors like the Lindsey Vonn Foundation and Red Bull.
“It’s really cool to watch her and see the fire in her eyes and the fire in her skiing,” Shiffrin continued. “That’s really motivating as well ... For sure there’s always disappointment when you come through the finish after the lead in the first run and you see the red light … [But] for me a podium in the first race of the season is always a good thing, especially when it’s this close. Even more this year, because I felt more comfortable and more confident in my skiing in this first race than I ever have.”
Shiffrin has every reason to be confident going into this World Cup Tour, coming off her most successful World Cup run in her career (and in the history of the sport) by skiing to a record-breaking 17 WC victories in 2019.
Read more: 2019-20 World Cup Preview
The 2019-20 season also got off to a good start for American Nina O’Brien, who finished in 21st to secure her first World Cup points of the season and land a career-best finish. Teammates AJ Hurt and Keely Cashman finished outside of the top-30, while Storm Klomhaus, who made her World Cup debut in Saturday’s race, did not finish her first run.
Pinturault Wins; Ford, Ligety Just Miss Men's GS Podium
After two years of canceled men's events in Sölden, the FIS World Cup GS finally took place on the Rettenbach glacier the day after the women's race. Despite challenging visibility conditions due to shadows during the second run, France's Alexis Pinturault took the win, beating his fellow French teammate Matthieu Faivre by 0.54 seconds and Slovenian Zan Kranjec by, who rounded out the podium in third, by 0.63 seconds.
Since the retirement of Austrian Marcel Hirscher earlier this year, Pinturault is a top pick this season for a number of titles. Last season, he was second to Hirscher in the Overall points title and won the Alpine Combined Crystal Globe. The Frenchman kicked off the 2019-20 World Cup Tour with a strong first impression with his season-opening win in Sölden.
“It was really fantastic,” Pinturault said after the race. "I had two solid runs. It was really hard on the second run, we couldn’t see anything on the piste.”
Americans Tommy Ford and Ted Ligety finished just off the podium in fourth and fifth, only 0.70 and 1.09 seconds behind Pinturault, respectively. A third American, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, placed 11th and just missed finishing in the top ten by 0.09 seconds. He was 1.49 seconds behind the winner. Americans River Radamus and Brian McLaughlin did not qualify for a second run, and Nicholas Krause did not finish his first run.
Other top picks favored to do well this season after Hirscher's retirement had mediocre starts. Austria's Manuel Feller and Switzerland's Marco Odermatt both finished more than a second-and-a-half behind Pinturault in 12th and 13th, respectively. Norway's Henrik Kristofferson, who finished second behind Hirscher last season for the GS Crystal Globe, finished in 18th, 2.02 seconds behind Pinturault.
The season opener bodes well for Pinturault, Kranjec, and the American technical racers, all of whom are poised to have their best seasons since Ligety won the Giant Slalom Crystal Globe in 2014. But, there is still a lot of racing to come in the 2019-20 FIS Alpine World Cup Tour.
Read more: Racers Ready for 2019-2020 World Cup Start
From Sölden the FIS World Cup Tour heads to Levi, Finland for the first slalom event of the season on Nov. 23 for the ladies and Nov. 24 for the men.