After a setback in the last World Cup race in Courchevel, France, Mikaela Shiffrin came out of the start gate in Lienz, Austria with guns blazing to win both Saturday’s giant slalom and Sunday’s slalom races by big margins. Though Shiffrin won all four runs thanks to consistently strong performances, the World Cup weekend in Austria was filled with exciting skiing and unexpected results. Here are the highlights.
Lienz Women's Giant Slalom, December 28
Two weeks ago, Shiffrin posted her worst World Cup result since 2017 in Courchevel’s giant slalom. The American made no obvious mistakes during her two GS runs, yet she landed in 17th. There seemed to be only one explanation for the disappointing result: She hadn’t wanted it enough and hadn’t skied aggressively enough. From the first gates in Saturday’s GS in Lienz, it was clear she wasn’t going to make that mistake again.
Starting with bib number 4, Shiffrin skied a ferocious first run to cross the finish line 0.61 seconds ahead of Italy’s Marta Bassino, winner of the Killington GS. Despite difficult light conditions, Shiffrin was able to extend that margin even further in her second run, crossing the finish with a staggering 1.36-second lead to win her first GS race of the season.
Bassino followed up with a second strong run to settle in second place and claim her second GS podium of the season, while Austrian Katharina Liensberger skied perhaps the best slalom run of her career to move up from seventh place to third and secure her first World Cup GS podium, 1.82 seconds behind Shiffrin’s combined time. Italian Federica Brignone, the leader of the World Cup rankings in GS heading into Lienz, made a few costly errors in her first run and was unable to recoup that time in her second run, finishing fourth overall.
Watching Shiffrin collapse with relief in the finish area after each run demonstrated just how much the disappointing Courchevel result had weighed on her.
“It sounds a little bit stupid to say that the last week [after the Courchevel GS] was a tough time, because I’ve already had an amazing season,” Shiffrin shared after the race. “It was just one race—it sounds stupid, it’s just ski racing. But I care.”
Despite the win, Shiffrin still trails Brignone by 21 points in the World Cup GS standings. Bassino, thanks to her second GS podium this season, sits in third.
View full results of the women's GS in Lienz here.
Lienz Women's Slalom, December 29
Having proven herself with Saturday’s giant slalom result, one might assume that Shiffrin, more comfortable in the slalom than giant slalom event, would ski a strong yet more reserved first run in Sunday’s slalom. That was not the case. Once again, Shiffrin launched herself out of the start gate with an attacking mentality, skiing the most direct and fluid line of both runs to take the win over Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova by 0.61 seconds.
“I don’t really have words,” Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “Today was, again, a really special day and I knew that nothing less than 110 percent was going to be fast enough for this race. I know how strong Petra is skiing, so I was trying to keep myself focused and not get nervous.”
While Vlhova’s team celebrated her second-place finish, the result must have been hard to swallow considering Vlhova skied what looked to be a perfect second run and crossed the finish 1.11 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. In most World Cup races, that margin would be more than enough to secure the win—but Shiffrin was able to top even that.
The surprise of the weekend came from France’s Michelle Gisin, who first made a name for herself on the World Cup circuit in the speed events. After settling into eighth place in the first run, Gisin demonstrated her capabilities as a technical racer by skiing the third fastest second run to ultimately finish third overall and secure her first World Cup slalom podium.
View full results of the women's slalom in Lienz here.
Shiffrin’s win in Sunday’s slalom marks her 64th World Cup victory and 43rd slalom title. The 24-year-old now leads the slalom rankings by 140 points over Vlhova, while Gisin moves up to third. And while she trails Brignone in the GS rankings, she has extended her overall lead over Brignone by 295 points.
From Lienz, the women’s World Cup circuit moves to Zagreb, Croatia for the first slalom event of the new year on Jan. 4.
Cochran-Siegle Fifth in Bormio Alpine Combined
Starksboro, Vt. native Ryan Cochran-Siegle skied to a career-best fifth place in the first FIS Alpine World Cup alpine combined race of the season in Bormio, Italy. The event, which combines the times of a super-G run and a slalom run on the same day, provided an opportunity for the American skier to demonstrate his evolving versatility on the tour.
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"The super-G inspection looked like you had to come out with good race intensity with icy snow and bumpy terrain, which was not easy to do after the past three days of full on World Cup downhill,” Cochran-Sigele told U.S. Ski and Snowboard after nabbing the 15th fastest super-G run of the day. “I actually liked the way I came out of the gate, skiing more aggressively than my last couple super-G starts, but got bumped off [my] line because of it before the traverse. I kept it going the rest of the way, but knew I didn’t carry as much speed out of that section as the top guys would have.”
Cochran-Siegle surprised himself with his slalom run, especially considering he does not race in that event on the World Cup tour. He had the seventh-fastest slalom run of the day.
"In slalom I had no expectations and kept my focus simple, trying to keep the arc short on the pitch and then getting to the new ski fast and early coming off the pitch with a good race mentality," he continued according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. "Knowing I had to ski to my limit in order to be in there helped me silence any internal thoughts aside from just my skiing. It felt to me very much in my zone and a state of flow from the top to bottom."
France’s Alexis Pinturault, who won the alpine combined crystal globe last season, won the Bormio event, finishing with a combined time of 2:32.56. Pinturault was 0.51 seconds faster than Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and 0.56 seconds faster than Switzerland’s Loic Meillard. Kilde’s second-place finish was enough to take the top spot on the FIS World Cup overall points leaderboard. The next alpine combined event for the men’s FIS Alpine World Cup Tour is scheduled to take place in Wengen on January 17, 2020.
See the full Bormio alpine combined results here.
Paris Dominates Both Bormio Downhill Races
Italian Dominik Paris continued his reign as the King of Bormio by winning two downhill races, which took place on the famous Stelvio run on Friday, Dec. 27 and Saturday, Dec. 28. The Italian swept both downhills during the 2012/2013 season as well. This season’s wins elevated his FIS World Cup overall points standing to the top spot for one day (Kilde’s second place alpine combined finish on Sunday put Paris in second place overall).
On Friday, Paris beat Switzerland’s Beat Feuz by 0.39 seconds, and Austrian Matthias Mayer rounded out the podium 0.42 seconds behind Paris. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows skier Travis Ganong finished in eighth overall, 1.48 seconds behind the winner and the fastest American of the day.
"It's really nice to finally have another good result here in Bormio," Travis said. "This is where I had my first top-10, but also the two years ago I blew out my knee, and last year [during training] it was really bad luck with my ski popping off and I tore my LCL—it was just a grade two tear, so I was able to come back—but I hadn't had a finish here in two years,” Ganong said according to the U.S. Ski Team. “It had been a while, so it was amazing, today, to have some good feelings on the snow, have some confidence and just turn my brain off and ski."
Cochran-Siegle finished in eleventh place on Friday, and American Steven Nyman also earned points with a 24th place finish.
View all of the Bormio downhill results from Friday here.
On Saturday, Paris once again found himself on top of the podium, this time followed by Switzerland’s Urs Kryenbuehl, who was a mere 0.08 seconds behind, and Feuz in third, 0.26 seconds behind Paris. It was the Italian’s 14 victory in a FIS Alpine World Cup downhill event, making him the most successful Italian in the discipline of all time.
Cochran-Siegle again finished just outside of the top 10 on Saturday, 1.71 seconds behind Paris. Nyman finished in 19, and American Jared Goldberg also found himself with FIS World Cup points with a 23 place finish.
See the full result sheet from Saturday's downhill in Bormio here.
The next men's FIS Alpine World Cup event will take place in Zagreb, Croatia, on January 5th with a night slalom event.
Jon Jay contributed reporting for this article.