Shiffrin Grabs Third in St. Moritz Super-G to Extend Overall Lead
After a week of questionable weather reports, both the classic unpredictability of St. Moritz, Switzerland and the sunshine shone through on Saturday during a super-G where Mikaela Shiffrin led three women into the points for the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team with a third-place finish.
Prior to Saturday's race, Mikaela told NBC, "It doesn't matter what the conditions are or what the weather is, the most aggressive, cleanest skier is going to end up on top." On Saturday, that honor went to Italy's Sofia Goggia.
With St. Moritz's typically technical super-G, featuring a fair amount of terrain, it was no surprise that Italy's fiery and fast Federica Brignone - who was bib 9 - was the early leader. Mikaela stood in the start gate, the clouds parted and the sun came out. She came out of the start - guns blazing - bib lucky number 13 and though it appeared she'd take the lead, a couple of small mistakes in the mid-section of the course cost her some time and she skied into second behind Federica, by a mere .12 seconds. She saw the time, stuck out her tongue playfully and thanked the crowd. All eyes on Sofia, bib 16. After struggling with a DNF in the season super-G opener in Lake Louise, Canada, Sofia stayed true to her wild style, always keeping fans on the edge of their seats, cutting line and even losing a pole along the way, to sneak ahead of Federica by .01 and take the lead.
As often is the case in St. Moritz, the weather can be tricky, and no one never knows when the dreaded "Maloja Snake" will rear its ugly head. The forecast called for wind and potential snowfall for Saturday, though the weather gods were kind to the FIS Ski World Cup this year, parting the clouds and allowing the sun to shine through on the women for a perfect day of super-G. It was an American course set, by women's speed Head Coach Chip White. With the venue hosting the recent Europa Cup, the track was awesome, buff - like Colorado snow. In other words, it was a complete 180 from last weekend's soft surface at Lake Louise, and much like what the women had been training on at U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain, Colo. in November.
At Friday evening's team meeting, Head Coach Paul Kristofic told the women that the snow was "super familiar, Colorado-type snow." "You've had the best training in the world [at Copper Mountain], so translate that into the best skiing you've ever done. Do not worry about the weather, rise above it. Wherever the start is, accept it and go, go go." The word on the mountain was that wind gusts would be strong, so it was likely that at least one of the reserve starts would be utilized. On Saturday morning, there was some light snow and clouds were coming in and out, but the weather was relatively clear despite some wind out of the start gate.
"It was really, really nice to ski today, and the surface was very good," reflected Mikaela in the post-race press conference. There was slightly more air time off the jump than the women thought. "Sofia was really aggressive on the pitch going into the jump, so she carried a lot of speed, and I did a similar thing and I felt like when I was in the air I was like, 'Hmm, maybe I'm not going to land on the ground before the next gate,' so I was trying to rush to get back to the ground so I could actually make the next turn, but it was building up a lot and for a moment I thought I'd maybe not finish," Mikaela continued.
It was a great collective team showing for the Americans, with both Alice Merryweather and Alice McKennis (29th) in the points for the fourth straight race, and Alice Merryweather coming from bib 44 to 20th. Jackie Wiles also started for the Americans, but finished outside of the points. In just her second World Cup race series back from an injury that had her sidelined for 22 months, Jackie will look to take what she learned from Saturday into the next speed series in Val d'Isere, France—a favorite stop of the American women.
Mikaela now leads the overall standings by 271 points, with 532 points to Germany's Viktoria Rebensburg's 261 points. Up next is a parallel event on Sunday, an event that Mikaela has excelled in previously but she has opted to sit out on Sunday, so she can manage energy levels and focus. Mikaela, who is one of the few athletes to compete in all disciplines (and the only athlete to win in all six currently contested FIS World Cup disciplines), is heading into a busy next couple of weeks on the World Cup tour that includes five races across four disciplines in the next 15 days. She announced the news in an Instagram post on Saturday after the super-G race:
Today was so much fun and the surface was perfect!! Congrats to Sofia Goggia and Federica Brignone, and to my teammates for an awesome collective result. I’ve been asked a couple times if I’m skiing the parallel tomorrow - obviously it’s not an *easy* decision, but I’m opting out of the race tomorrow. There are quite a few reasons for this but at the top of the list is that for several years I have been longing to race Val d’Isere but have never been able to because the @fisalpine schedule is always too tough (for those who race in all disciplines), but one of my goals this season is to get on that track and to race a little more speed in general so I’m trying to manage energy and focus accordingly! It’s always a day to day process, and tough to make these decisions but I’m looking forward to Courchevel! And good luck to the girls tomorrow especially USA 💪💪🤗
Balancing all of the events in what proves to be a challenging and busy FIS schedule is still something Mikaela is working on, but she's finding enjoyment across all of the events—and she continues to prove she is a podium contender every time she steps into the start gate. "I don't really have a favorite event anymore, but for sure in slalom it's still where I'm the most comfortable or I have the most experience or the best feeling, so I don't need as much training to feel 100% anymore," reflected Mikaela. But, this time of year is probably the biggest push—from Copper to Levi to Killington to Lake Louise to here—and trying to feel like I can really push for a podium every time, with no training basically. So that's the most difficult thing. But it's also really nice to race like that, because you build your momentum and just keep going."
Nina O'Brien and Alice Merryweather will start in Sunday's parallel for the Americans. From there, the women will travel to Courchevel for a giant slalom on Tuesday and then Val d'Isere, France—a favorite stop on the tour for the women's speed team—for a downhill and alpine combined on Dec. 21-22. Mikaela is slated to compete in all three upcoming French venue events.
Official event hashtag: #worldcupstmoritz
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
Saturday, Dec. 14
2:00 p.m. - NBC Special "Mikaela's Masterpiece" - NBCSN
9:30 p.m. - Women’s super-G, St. Moritz, SUI - NBCSN*
Saturday, Dec. 15
3:30 a.m. - Men’s slalom run 1, Val d‘Isere, FRA - Olympic Channel.com - delayed until 4 a.m., NBC Sports Gold
3:45 a.m. - Women’s parallel slalom qualifying, St. Moritz, SUI - Olympic Channel.com - delayed until 10:30 a.m., NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. - Men’s slalom run 2, Val d‘Isere, FRA - Olympic Channel, Olympic Channel.com, NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. - Women’s parallel slalom, St. Moritz, SUI - Olympic Channel, Olympic Channel.com, NBC Sports Gold
8:00 p.m. - Women’s parallel slalom, St. Moritz, SUI - NBCSN*
Note: All televised events to stream across NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app, OlympicChannel.com, and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA app
Exclusive commercial-free coverage will be available for subscribers of the NBC Sports Gold Pass, available here: https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/snow.