Mikaela Shiffrin won her first career World Cup giant slalom race, tying for the victory in the season opener in Soelden, Austria, on Saturday.
The U.S. Olympic slalom champion clocked a two-run time of 2 minutes, 39.85 seconds. As did Austrian Anna Fenninger, the reigning World Cup overall champion. Another Austrian, Eva-Maria Brem, was third.
“I’m really psyched I made it down alive [in the second run],” said Shiffrin, who had a stomach ache before her second run. “Maybe I’ll try to get on the top step on my own next time.
“It’s a pretty good start. I can’t really wish for better.”
Shiffrin led Fenninger by .09 after the first run. She was the last skier to go in the second run and fell .63 behind Fenninger at an early split but made up the deficit. She was obviously pleased with the tie, smiling while putting her hands on her knees after seeing a scoreboard crossing the finish line.
“As long as you see the green light [on the scoreboard, indicating having taken a lead], then it’s good,” Shiffrin said. “The last year, and the past three years, I’ve come down in GS and seen red, red, red. It feels good to finally come the second run and see green.”
Shiffrin, 19, who became the youngest Olympic men’s or women’s slalom gold medalist ever in Sochi, set these youngest-since World Cup marks Saturday:
* Youngest World Cup giant slalom men’s or women’s race winner since France’s Tessa Worley on Nov. 9, 2008.
* Youngest U.S. World Cup giant slalom men’s or women’s race winner since Diann Roffe on March 13, 1985 (Roffe was 17).
* Youngest Soelden men’s or women’s race winner since Nicole Hosp (18), Tina Maze (19) and Andrine Flemmen (27) tied for the win in 2002, the first three-way tie in World Cup history.
Shiffrin is the reigning Olympic, World and World Cup champion in the slalom, but she was near tears in Sochi after finishing fifth in the Olympic giant slalom three days before she won the slalom.
“I was really thinking that my first giant slalom win would be at the Olympics,” Shiffrin said in Sochi, though her agent, a former World Cup racer, said Shiffrin skied to her level in the Olympic giant slalom.
So she made it her primary post-Olympic goal to win her first giant slalom race. Shiffrin was sixth in Soelden last year and notched her first career World Cup giant slalom podiums with second- and third-place finishes last December.
Saturday marked her 23rd career World Cup giant slalom start. Shiffrin was 43rd in her first giant slalom on March 11, 2011, 4.64 seconds behind the first-run leader. She failed to qualify for the second run and was two days shy of her 16th birthday.
She won her first World Cup slalom race in her 14th start in that discipline.
“It’s very helpful to know that I can win GS,” Shiffrin said. “I’ve thought it for so long and believed in myself, but today was the first day where, between runs, I was like, I really think I can do this.”
On Saturday, Fenninger won her fifth straight World Cup giant slalom race with the tie. Shiffrin may be emerging as a threat to Fenninger’s defense of the World Cup overall title. The American was fifth and sixth in the overall standings, a sum of results across all five Alpine disciplines, the last two years.
Now that Shiffrin has her first World Cup giant slalom win, many will wonder when she makes her debut in a World Cup speed event, likely a super-G. She has said she would like to do so before the World Championships in Colorado in February. Her giant slalom comfort would play a role in when she added super-G.
”Soelden is always like a see-where-I-am kind of a race,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going for the [crystal] globes [that go to season-long discipline and overall champions], as many as I can.”
The men race in Soelden on Sunday. U.S. Olympic champion Ted Ligety eyes his fourth straight season-opening win in Soelden.
The women’s World Cup continues with a slalom in Levi, Finland, on Nov. 15. Shiffrin won in Levi last year and received a reindeer as a prize.
Men’s Alpine skiing World Cup preview