Shiffrin Maintains Overall Lead Despite Challenging Day
It was an uncharacteristically tough day for Mikaela Shiffrin in Courchevel, France, as she finished in 17th place in Tuesday's giant slalom. Italy's Federica Brignone was first by .13 seconds over Norway's Mina Fuerst Holtmann, and Switzerland's Wendy Holdener rounded out the podium in third.
It just didn't seem to click for Mikaela from the start of the day, as she kicked out of the start gate bib one and seemingly couldn't find her flow. Warm weather forced organizers to salt and water the track, but the conditions held up surprisingly well. As one of the few remaining multi-event skiers, since Nov. 23rd, Mikaela has competed in Levi, Finland then traveled to Killington, Vt., onward to Lake Louise, Canada for a speed series, then over to St. Moritz, Switzerland for the super-G before opting to sit out of the parallel slalom Sunday.
In this stretch opening of races, she was first (slalom), third (giant slalom), first (slalom), 10th (downhill), second (downhill), 10th (super-G), third (super-G), and 17th place in Tuesday's giant slalom. In Soelden's giant slalom opener, she skied the strongest she has on the hill and finished in second by a mere .06 hundredths. She currently leads the World Cup overall and slalom standings. For anyone's standards, this would be a successful run.
This is ski racing, after all. Despite how "easy" Mikaela makes it look, it's not easy. She's an athlete with exceptional talent. And, she is a champion. Champions handle both success and failure with class and find a way to learn from their experiences and translate them into positives to take into the next race. And, for Mikaela, there are plenty of races and plenty of days ahead.
Following the race Mikaela—who was visibly upset—was speechless, and a little stunned. "I have a lot of thoughts, but I probably shouldn't say any of them on camera," she said playfully through her frustration. "Look, it's not really OK for me to expect something more from the day. I mean...I skied and I placed how I placed. The girls who are ahead of me skied harder, better and cleaner than me. They did a better job. It makes sense, actually—but, yeah. I have a lot of thoughts."
Never one to place blame on weather or equipment, Mikaela was quick to look inward, "I don't have any excuse, really. They did an amazing job preparing the surface. The slope was actually in an amazing condition. Both courses were really fun to ski, and my equipment has been really great in training and everything. There's really no one to blame but myself. I'm for sure going to watch my video. It's experience, and there's always a lesson to learn. Right now it feels heartbreaking, but it's also not the end of the world so we just have to move on to the next one."
Prior to Tuesday, Mikaela had won the last four races in Courchevel, France—including two giant slaloms—and she had finished on the podium in each of the previous six World Cup giant slalom races. The last time Mikaela finished outside of the top-10 in a World Cup giant slalom was a 14th-place in Jasna, Slovakia in March of 2016, and the last time she finished outside of the top-15 was in Åre, Sweden in March of 2014. In the 26 giant slalom races between Jasna and Tuesday's race in Courchevel, she has been top-5 in 23 of them (88%), reached the podium in 17 of them (65%), and won nine of them (35%). Keep in mind, many of Mikaela's competitors are specialists in their respective disciplines.
Nina O'Brien, who has been skiing fast and strong in training, also struggled with the softer snow and couldn't get into a groove, as she finished outside of the 30 on the first run. Mikaela has maintained the lead in the overall standings (546 points) ahead of Italy's Federica Brignone (381 points).
Up next for the women is a speed series including a downhill and an alpine combined in Val d'Isere, France. Mikaela plans to ski in both events, though there is a weather pattern coming in with one meter of snow in Sunday's forecast, so it will be a day-to-day decision.
Women's Giant Slalom
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
Wednesday, Dec. 18
6:00 p.m. - Women’s giant slalom, Courchevel, FRA - 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.