Stars aligned for Shiffrin and Kilde over the weekend in Colorado and Norway
Special to the Vail Daily
It was a touch of serendipity that Mikaela Shiffrin clinched her fifth overall World Cup title this weekend racing in Norway, while Aleksander Aamodt Kilde secured his second World Cup downhill title on Colorado snow.
The stars aligned for ski racing’s power couple concerning their latest accomplishments, both succeeding in adding new crystal globes to their collections, both racing on Atomic skis and each relishing the innumerable admiration from their many fans, followers and friendly foes.
Albeit, they were charging down mountains — ocean and fjords away — near each other’s homes, some 4,644 miles apart.
Racing in Kilde’s favorite discipline, on his familiar home slope, where he won last March, Shiffrin finished a respectable fifth in Saturday’s downhill in Kvitfjell. She guaranteed her fifth overall World Cup title, once again surpassing another of Lindsey Vonn’s achievements. Shiffrin raised her overall points total to 1,828 after 32 of 39 races. Her 821-point advantage over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami, with just seven races remaining, sealed the deal.
Kilde’s sixth downhill victory this season on Saturday in Aspen increased his points total to 720, 206 clear of Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr, with just one race remaining. For the 30-year-old Norwegian, it is his second downhill globe, to go along with two super-G globes and one large crystal globe, having won an overall title in 2020.
Not surprisingly, Kilde offered Shiffrin some valuable tips and advice on how to best navigate his home course in Norway. Shiffrin has also trained there before with Kilde and the Norwegians.
Considering that Shiffrin’s latest achievement came in Kvitfjell — on the Olympiabakken piste made famous to American ski racing enthusiasts by Tommy Moe at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, as he stunned the Norwegian favorites en route to downhill gold — she probably deserved at least one Aquavit.
Aquavit is the Norwegian “Water of Life,” a potent, distilled spirit made from grain or potatoes produced since the 15th century. Conversely, hopefully Kilde cracked open a few Coors Lights to celebrate his latest accomplishment and honor the Colorado Rockies.
Shiffrin said her team’s celebration will have to wait, at least a little while longer.
“When you’re racing the next day, you don’t celebrate too much,” Shiffrin said after Saturday’s race. “But that’s OK, it’s an accomplishment from the whole season and we’ll celebrate a little bit after the season.”
Perhaps, at the upcoming World Cup Finals in Soldeu, Andorra, March 15-19, Shiffrin and Kilde will kick-off a well-deserved season celebration.
One crazy super-G race under ‘criminal conditions‘
In one of the most bizarre World Cup ski races in recent history, the final results entirely dictated by strange, ever-changing weather over the course of 30-plus racers, Shiffrin appeared to be headed toward a super-G podium. Starting bib No. 7, Shiffrin laid down a gutsy run, fighting her way through snowfall and limited visibility, to move into second place.
Italian downhill queen Sofia Goggia bumped Shiffrin one spot, skiing in what she called “criminal conditions” and as she was on the verge of celebrating her sixth downhill win this season, the skies cleared, changing everything. Racing from the back of the pack under vastly different weather elements, Austrians Nina Ortlieb (bib 31), Stephanie Venier (bib 29) and Franziska Gritsch (bib 26) stole the race, going 1-2-3, and even laughed about what transpired in the finish area.
Despite the commendable effort racing in brutal conditions, Shiffrin said she skied smart and limited her risk-taking to a minimum.
“I’ve always been a skier who if I feel like it’s not safe or I can’t handle something, then I kind of pull in the reins a little bit,” she said. “That’s always been who I am as a person. I don’t go overboard.”
Yet more titles in sight
Now, with an astounding collection of nine discipline globes, stacked alongside her five overall titles, Shiffrin said there is one more discipline title to chase this season. Ten is a nice round figure.
“The final big goal for me this season is trying to hang on to the GS globe,” she said in a SkiandSnowboard.Live interview on Sunday.
Shiffrin leads the current GS standing with 600 points after eight of 10 races, but three challengers could conceivably deny her from attaining her second globe in the discipline. With two GS races left, Friday in Åre, Sweden, and World Cup Finals in Andorra, Gut-Behrami trails the American by 118-points, Italian Marta Bassino by 149 and Slovak Petra Vlhova by 164.
The highly decorated, soon-to-be 28-year-old Colorado racer, is also now just one overall title away from equaling, arguably the greatest benchmark in ski racing history. Annemarie Moser-Pröll’s raced to six overall titles in the 1970s. The Austrian sports legend capped off her stellar career with an Olympic downhill gold medal at Lake Placid 1980, and then retired at age 26.
Shiffrin also remains one triumph away from equaling Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark’s all-time World Cup victories benchmark of 86. With a giant slalom slated for Friday, followed by a slalom on Saturday, surpassing Stenmark on Swedish snow is also a realistic possibility.
Student musicians take the Wheeler stage for Aspen Rocks competition on Saturday
For the second year, Aspen Rocks will return to the Wheeler Opera House where six student musicians will compete on Saturday night for a chance to win recording time with a professional engineer at the legendary Mad Dog Ranch+Studios.