After a much-deserved week of respite following a hectic block of racing, the women in the technical events on the World Cup circuit returned to the start gate on January 15 for the giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy. Mikaela Shiffrin, who received the Team USA Athlete of the Month award in December following a record-breaking winning streak, showed up for the first GS event since her disappointing fifth-place finish in Semmering, Austria in a big way.
Skiing two perfect and fluid runs reminiscent of her incredible super-G runs in Lake Louise and St. Moritz earlier this season, Shiffrin finished in Kronplatz with an overall time that was more than a second faster than the other podium finishers. Tessa Worley of France finished in second place 1.21 seconds behind Shiffrin’s winning time, while Italian up-and-comer Marta Bassino clinched her first World Cup podium with a third place finish 1.57 seconds behind Shiffrin.
Shiffrin’s victory on Tuesday marked her 53rd career World Cup win, 10th WC win this season, and eighth career GS win; yet significantly, it marked her first GS win on Italian snow and on Kronplatz’s notoriously technical track which has bested Shiffrin in the past. Last season, Shiffrin failed to finish the GS race in Kronplatz—a rarity for the racer who finishes most her events on the podium.
“This is maybe the most difficult slope that we ski on the women’s side,” Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “It’s super cool for us to come here because it’s pushing the limits and showing that we can do this technical kind of skiing.”
Though she has had disappointing results in Kronplatz in the past, this year Shiffrin was able to take advantage of the Erta Trail to show off her specialty: technical skiing at its finest. Where previous racers down the course, like Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel and Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, jammed their skis sideways and skidded around gates on especially icy and steep parts of the track, Shiffrin managed to let her skis run on edge, building momentum and speed with each turn and by every split down the course.
Even technical specialist Petra Vlhova of Slovakia, who beat Shiffrin in the last slalom and GS events in Flachau and Semmering respectively, wasn’t able to come close to Shiffrin’s first run time. Vlhova, starting right after Shiffrin with bib 6, skied aggressively and took a lot of risk with her line, yet still crossed the finish line 1.42 seconds behind Shiffrin, slotting her into second place. When Vlhova turned to the leader board in the finish area immediately after her run, she looked shocked to discover the huge margin that separated her time from Shiffrin’s.
Next up was Worley, who finished in the top three of the last two giant slalom races. She too skied aggressively, but it wasn’t enough to catch Shiffrin. Worley crossed the finish 1.39 seconds behind Shiffrin’s time, bumping Vlhova down to third and sliding into second place for the second run.
Bassino, who finished in the top 15 in the last two World Cup GS events, skied a strong first run and finished fourth, only 0.05 seconds off Vlhova in third. Though Bassino trailed Shiffrin by 1.47 seconds, the hundredths of a second that separated her from Vlhova and Worley made her a contender for the podium in the second run.
The second run saw only minor upsets and changing of ranks. Mowinckel, who sat in fifth after the first run, slid out of the course and did not finish her second run. Rebensburg, who won the GS in Kronplatz in last year's World Cup, skied a cleaner and faster line in her second run, which was enough to move her up from seventh to fifth overall.
Bassino, starting her run just before the top 3 from the first run, skied like she was gunning for her first podium and crossed the finish line with a big 0.74 second margin lead over then-leader Federica Brignone. Vlhova, skiing after Bassino, made a number of small mistakes throughout her second run, and finished 0.49 seconds behind Bassino’s overall time, putting her out of contention for the podium.
Shiffrin skied her second run a little more conservatively than her first, but her technique was still near-flawless. Worley skied her second run like she was set on catching up to Shiffrin. And though she beat Shiffrin’s second run time by 0.18 seconds, that margin was nowhere near enough to catch up to Shiffrin’s phenomenal overall lead of 1.21 seconds.
“The surface was perfect today and it felt good to be aggressive,” Shiffrin said after the race. “But I had some nerves to fight because I didn’t do well last year. It’s an amazing trail and I really wanted to get to the finish but do it the right way, so I’m really happy,” said Shiffrin.
U.S. teammate Nina O’Brien (Denver, Colo.) scored her first World Cup GS points in Kronplatz by finishing 25th. O’Brien earned her first career World Cup points earlier this season in the Killington slalom. See full results of the Kronplatz GS.
Coming Up On the Women's World Cup...
The women’s World Cup circuit now moves on to Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, where the ladies will be starting in their first speed events since the Val Gardena downhill and Super G races in December. Lindsey Vonn, who planned to return to racing at the St. Anton speed events on January 11-13 which were ultimately cancelled due to too much snow in the region, will now stage her comeback at the January 18 downhill race in Cortina.
“I was really excited to race this weekend in St. Anton but even more excited that it was rescheduled for Cortina next weekend. 2x DH races and 1x SG at one of my favorite venues,” Vonn wrote in an Instagram post on January 12.