It was another red banner weekend for Mikaela Shiffrin. The 24-year-old American once again proved to the world that she is no longer just a technical skier by winning two out of three World Cup speed events held over the weekend in Bansko, Bulgaria.
On Jan. 24, Shiffrin skied to her first downhill victory since winning the 2017 Lake Louise downhill, then followed up with another win in Sunday’s super-G. Shiffrin very nearly scored a hat trick, narrowly missing the podium in Saturday’s second downhill race and finishing fourth. Here are the highlights from the women’s World Cup race weekend in Bansko, Bulgaria.
Shiffrin Nabs First Downhill Victory Since 2017
On an extremely bumpy downhill course that did its best to buck the racers, Shiffrin managed to ski an aggressive, tight line to post the fastest time of the day, just 0.18 seconds faster than Italy’s Federica Brignone—Shiffrin’s main rival in giant slalom this season. Switzerland’s Joana Haehlen, who posted the fastest time in Thursday’s training run, secured her first World Cup podium by finishing third, 0.23 seconds behind Shiffrin.
Though bumpy, Friday’s downhill course seemed to favor more technical skiers in the group like Shiffrin and Brignone as it featured much tighter turns than you normally see in a downhill event; Shiffrin, the world’s best technical skier, was able to make the necessary quick transitions between gates and let her skis run where many other racers had to slam on the brakes in order to make the turns.
Sixteen racers were unable to finish Friday’s challenging downhill, including Americans Alice McKennis, Alice Merryweather, and Jacqueline Wiles. McKennis suffered a scary crash in the top section of the course but skied away from it without serious injury.
American Breezy Johnson, skiing in only her second World Cup race since coming back from knee surgery, impressed with an aggressive line that landed her in 10th place, 1.77 seconds out from Shiffrin’s time.
See full results from Friday's Bansko Donwhill here.
“I’ll take that one,” Johnson commented in the finish area right after her run. “These sort of things are not guaranteed,” Johnson later shared on her Instagram. “10th place in my second race back is incredible. To do it on a hill that I don’t think particularly favors me, it gives me a lot of hope going forward. Another chance tomorrow to clean up some mistakes and find my calm in the bumpy chaos.”
Both Shiffrin and Johnson followed up with impressive runs in Saturday’s second downhill race, though not quite fast enough to make the podium. The two Americans landed in fourth and fifth, respectively, behind an Italian trifecta: Italy’s Elena Curtoni, who finished fourth in Friday’s downhill, posted the fastest time of the day, with countrywomen Marta Bassino and Federica Brignone finishing within 0.14 seconds of Curtoni’s time to round out the Italian podium in second and third, respectively.
The last time three Italian women filled the podium at a World Cup race was in 2017 in Aspen, Colorado, when Brignone, Sofia Goggia, and Bassino dominated the World Cup GS finals. Curtoni’s win on Saturday marked her first-ever World Cup victory.
“First win and first podium after tough years and injury, so it’s special,” Curtoni said after the race. “It makes it even more special to share it with my teammates. It’s almost unbelievable because my feelings during the race were not the best—I felt so low in my line and like I was losing speed.”
American Alice Merriweather had a better race the second time around, finishing in 26th to collect additional World Cup points. After her crash in the first downhill, McKennis was able to start in Saturday’s race, but seemed to have lost some confidence, skiing a more conservative line that landed her outside the top 30; Jacqueline Wiles also finished outside the top 30.
See full results from Saturday's Bansko Donwhill here.
Thanks to her win in Friday’s downhill and fourth place in Saturday’s event, Shiffrin now ranks second in the downhill standings, trailing Switzerland’s Corinne Suter by only 16 points. Curtoni’s victory in Saturday’s downhill moved her up the downhill rankings to fourth overall, eight points behind Ester Ledecka from the Czech Republic.
Shiffrin Wins Super-G and Leads Standings
Shiffrin has said before it can be challenging to shift gears from the downhill to super-G the following day, explaining that super-G requires different timing and strategy. But Shiffrin seemed to have no trouble adjusting to a quicker pace for Sunday’s Bansko super-G.
Starting with bib 13, Shiffrin skied a risky, aggressive line and crossed the finish 0.29 seconds faster than Italy’s Marta Bassino to secure her fourth career super-G win and second victory of the weekend. Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami, a veteran on the women’s World Cup, managed to fight her way back onto the podium after injury and inconsistent skiing with a third-place finish—her first podium finish in nearly a year.
“It was a perfect weekend for me,” Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “It was a really big challenge … I had to be really aggressive. [My skiing] wasn’t always perfectly clean, but it was the fastest way I could ski this hill and this course … There are so many women that are skiing really fast, really strong. Every race is such a big fight and I haven’t been the one on top of this fight every time … I’m super excited.”
Alice Merryweather had her best result of the weekend, finishing 19th to collect points. Breezy Johnson and Alice McKennis finished just outside the top 30, while Jacqueline Wiles was unable to finish the race.
See full results from Saturday's Bansko Donwhill here.
Shiffrin’s second win of the weekend extended her overall World Cup lead to 1,225 points, 370 points ahead of Federica Brignone. She now also leads the super-G standings, 36 points ahead of Switzerland’s Corinne Suter.
The women’s World Cup now moves on to Rosa Khutor, Russia on Feb. 1-2 for the next downhill and super-G events of the Tour.
Bennett, Ganong Nab Top-10 Finishes in Kitzbühel
Over the weekend in Austria, the American men took on the fastest skiers in the world at the infamous Hahnenkamm events in Kitzbühel, Austria. The event started with the super-G race on Friday, where Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows skier Travis Ganong finished in 10th place, 1.15 seconds behind the winner, Kjetil Jansrud of Norway. It was Ganong's fourth top-ten World Cup finish of the season.
“I think I’m skiing pretty well,” Ganong told U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “I’ve been building up again since the break over Christmas… I always love coming back to Kitzbühel. It’s a really fun hill because you don’t have to worry about all these little funky sections. You just ski fast and well and push on the ski ... it’s nice to come down in the top 10.”
Jansrud finished a mere 0.16 seconds ahead of fellow Attacking Viking Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Austrian Matthias Mayer, who tied for second place in the super-G. Americans Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Steven Nyman finished in 26th and 30th, respectively, gaining valuable World Cup points in the process.
See the full Kitzbühel super-G result list here.
Mayer Wins Kitzbühel Downhill
In front of a massive crowd in Kitzbühel on Saturday, Austrian Matthias Mayer won the downhill race on the Streif by 0.22 seconds ahead of a second-place tie by Vincent Kriechmayr, also of Austria, and Switzerland's Beat Feuz. The 29-year-old Mayer, who won the super-G in Kitzbühel in 2017, became only the eighth man ever to win both speed events on the storied Austrian course.
American Bryce Bennett raced with bib number one and held the fastest time through six other racers until Feuz took the top spot. It was the American's best-ever result in Kitzbühel, fishing only 0.89 seconds behind Mayer.
“I just had my plan and I was set on committing to it,” Bennett told U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “It was a cool feeling—I haven’t quite experienced that at Kitzbühel. I fully committed to it and it felt like I had a pretty solid ride. I was excited.”
Bennett's teammate Steven Nyman made a single mistake, but otherwise, put down a solid run and finished 1.05 seconds behind the winner in 13th overall. Americans Jared Goldberg and Ganong finished in 23rd and 30th, respectively.
The next stop for the men's FIS Alpine World Cup will be a night slalom in Schladming, Austria, on Tuesday, Jan. 28, followed by another round of speed events next weekend in Garmisch, Germany.
Jon Jay contributed to reporting this article.