Shiffrin wins World Cup slalom in VT
KILLINGTON, Vt. — Mikaela Shiffrin woke up this morning all nervous and edgy. By the end of the afternoon, it was hard to wonder why.
With her 95-year-old grandmother among the thousands cheering her, Shriffin won her sixth straight World Cup slalom Sunday after building a healthy lead in the first run and holding off some hard chargers in the second.
The overall World Cup leader had a combined time of 1 minute, 27.95 seconds. She was followed by Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova, 0.73 seconds back, and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener in 1:28.81.
Norway’s Nina Loeseth, runner-up in Saturday’s giant slalom, was fourth in 1:29.29 — 0.01 seconds ahead of Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova. The top five finishers from the first run finished in the same positions.
Shiffrin said she put a lot of pressure on herself about racing in the East. And Sunday began with a sense of dread.
“I told myself, maybe I just should not do this,” she said, adding she did not shake the feelings until the second run. “I was worked up and really nervous.” But the skier who attended Burke Mountain Academy in northern Vermont had no shortage of fans behind her.
“Thank you so much for cheering so loud,” she told those packing the two grandstands and lining the bottom of the course.
Shiffrin spent the Thanksgiving holiday with her family, including her grandmother.
“It was amazing that Nana was here to watch,” said Shiffrin, thanking her for “the unconditional love and the incredible pies.” “I’ve never been prouder of doing anything than winning a race in front of my Nana.”
Shiffrin also won the first slalom of the World Cup season in Finland. With a first in slalom and fifth in GS at Killington, she has extended her World Cup overall lead. She has 325 points to 168 for the runner-up, Switzerland’s Holdener.
This weekend’s World Cup races were the first for Killington and the first in 38 years in Vermont. There was a big crowd again Sunday, though perhaps slightly smaller than the 16,000 for Saturday’s giant slalom. The grandstands were again filled, with spectators piled up dozens deep alongside the course.
Velez Zuzulova called this her favorite race in North America.
“The crowds have never been like this in Aspen,” she said of the Colorado stop on the women’s circuit. “They were making noise for me, too,” she added. “They were cheering for everybody.”
This was Velez Zuzulova’s 26th World Cup podium finish. She said her father, also her coach, had set the second-run course, and she felt it had been perfect for her. She was running 30th — next to last — in the second run and that meant much tougher conditions than when she started seventh in the first run.
“It was a fight right from the start,” she said.
Holdener, who had her ninth top-three finish, spoke of the challenge of catching Shiffrin.
“We are getting a step closer this year than last year,” she said. “She’s still really dominant. To get even closer, we need to build our confidence.”
Shiffrin is just 21 but already has 22 World Cup victories, tying her for 19th on the women’s career list. She gets a kick at looking at the records, but says the important thing is to love what you do.
When asked about her role for young female skiers — many on hand this weekend — she acknowledges that’s becoming more important to her.
“As people tell me that they’re inspired by what I’m doing, I start to inspire myself as well,” she said. “But you’re skiing for yourself, not for anyone else. You can’t worry about other people’s approval.”
The women’s World Cup circuit moves to Lake Louise, Alberta, for two downhills and a super-G on Dec. 2-4.
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Perhaps it’s because we are in the abbreviated days of winter and I instinctively know that the sun is shining down-under. But every January I go through a nostalgic period where Australian wine dominates my mind.