Shiffrin Third in Jasna GS to Lead Three Americans into Top 25
On a beautifully prepared slope in Jasna, Slovakia, two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion Mikaela Shiffrin grabbed her 102nd FIS Ski World Cup podium, finishing third to lead three Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team athletes into the top 25.
On her home hill, Slovakian Petra Vlhova put on a good show for her country, winning the race by sixteen-hundredths of a second over New Zealand’s Alice Robinson, who showed the strong skiing she’s capable of after moving up from seventh first run. Shiffrin rounded out the podium in third, .37 second off Vlhova’s pace.
After snagging her 69th World Cup victory in Saturday’s slalom, Shiffrin came out first run with her game face on and ready to go Vlhova’s home hill. Both women skied incredible runs, with Shiffrin leading after the first run by a mere .16 seconds. Poland’s Maryna Gasienica-Daniel skied a beautiful first run, landing in third, .44 seconds off the pace. Nina O’Brien, who was second in the first giant slalom run at World Championships, showed her speed once again, landing in fourth from bib 19, .49 off the lead.
Americans Paula Moltzan and AJ Hurt also put down solid first runs, in 17th and 29th, respectively. Heading into the second run, the Americans had a very tangible opportunity to double podium—the last time that happened was on March 11, 1984, in Waterville Valley, N.H., when Tamara McKinney won and Christin Cooper was third. With four Americans in the second run, the stoke levels were high and the possibilities were exciting.
Hurt, who has scored points in four disciplines (slalom, parallel, giant slalom, and super-G) this season and will be heading to Bansko, Bulgaria next for FIS Ski World Junior Championships, started off the second run by laying down a solid time. She had a few minutes in the leaderboard and moved up to 22nd on the day. Moltzan also skied solidly to cap off a weekend of two top-20 results, landing in 19th. O’Brien left the start gate charging, was skiing blazing-fast through the first interval until she leaned in and DNFed. She was disappointed, but is OK and is happy with her skiing.
Vlhova broke a gate in the bottom section of the course, causing an unfortunate course hold for Shiffrin, who was in the start gate and ready to kick out. Clearly rattled from the start, Shiffrin skied clean from top to bottom, but couldn’t find the fire to grab the victory. Following the race, Shiffrin articulated her disappointment with the way the broken gate was handled, and how lengthy the course hold was.
Standing in the start gate, athletes are able to see the countdown clock from the start (the interval timer counts down from two minutes). Shiffrin heard the course crew and Vlhova's team celebrating when she crossed the finish line, so said she knew Vlhova had come down in the lead. "Then we have a 25-second countdown when the ref closes the start wand, so I clicked my poles together and put them in place, and rather than hearing the 'beeps' to signal 'go', I heard someone behind me say 'start stop' and for a second I thought he said ‘start’, so I almost went," Shiffrin explained.
Shiffrin knew the hold wasn't because Vlhova fell, because she heard the cheering. "It took nearly a minute to hear what the course hold was for, so I was standing there trying to just stay focused, but I felt there was something else going on because we normally get info quicker than that especially for a gate-fix. And then it took another minute for them to say the course was clear. The next countdown for my start was a half-interval, so it took another minute before I was able to go. It just doesn't take that long to fix a gate, but even more so, it doesn't take that long for them to tell you that was what the course hold was for...and it felt like stalling. I had said it was eight minutes, which is obviously not true, but as an athlete standing in the start gate, it feels like an eternity even if it's not. Life isn’t fair and ski racing is certainly not always fair, so it really was more frustration about the hold and communication being unprofessional, rather than unfair.”
Shiffrin noted that even though it felt "unprofessional," it may not have changed the outcome had it not happened. "It might not have changed the results. I could still be third, and Petra deserved to win...she’s skiing amazing, so that’s a separate thing...but life isn’t fair and ski racing isn't always fair, but at least it can be professional.”
All in all, Shiffrin is happy with her skiing and the progression she has made this season, after having some difficulty in giant slalom prior to World Championships. “I felt pretty good with my skiing...it was really good conditions, and super fun to ski GS on that slope, so I was pretty happy about that,” she reflected. “It’s incredible at this time in the season and getting back on the podium in both slalom and giant slalom, after World Champs it was a really big push, and then we went back into training and came prepared for these races. It’s always really incredible when it works out to get not just one but two podiums and have some really good skiing to show.”
The rivalry between Shiffrin and Vlhova on the snow has been thrilling for fans to watch. They have elevated the sport to another level, and continue to do so. Shiffrin shared her thoughts on the rivalry as well, “Petra’s skiing really strong in every event, so I always know it’s going to be a big fight. If I’m second and pushing to climb another step or if I’m in first and I have to defend it, it’s always a really good fight,” she added. “She skied really great today and was able to get the victory. She can be proud of how she skied.”
With her fourth place in Sunday’s giant slalom, Italy’s Marta Bassino wrapped up the race for the giant slalom globe, with 510 points over France’s Tessa Worley (362 points). With her victory on Sunday, Vlhova closed the gap to current World Cup overall leader, Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami to just 36 points heading into a double slalom World Cup in Are, Sweden. Qualifying for Finals in giant slalom for the United States include Shiffrin, ranked fourth and O'Brien in 20th. Moltzan just missed qualifying, ending up ranked 27th.
Katie Hensien also started for the Americans but did not finish the first run. She is OK.
Up next for the women is a double slalom in Are, Sweden—the final races series for the women before heading to World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Women’s giant slalom
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST.
11:00 p.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Women’s Giant Slalom - same-day broadcast, Jasna, SVK, Broadcast NBCSN