Mikaela Shiffrin and Tessa Worley vacationed together in Martinique in the offseason. They shared the podium — Worley first, Shiffrin third — in far less inviting weather in the first race of the World Cup season, a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria on Saturday.
Shiffrin, the Olympic GS champion, finished .94 behind the Frenchwoman and .59 behind Italian runner-up Federica Brignone. She was disappointed with her first run on a course set by her coach, which put her in fourth place and six tenths back going into the afternoon finale.
“I wasn’t really fighting hard enough,” Shiffrin said, according to The Associated Press. “For sure [my second run] was better. It was not like pretty skiing but I was fighting harder. I had fun out there but I also had some turns that were not fun at all.”
The start was moved down before the first run due to poor visibility, compounded by windy snowfall and bumpy terrain on the Rettenbach glacier.
“It was a fight,” Worley said.
Shiffrin made the podium in Soelden for the fourth time in five years. She’s favored this season to join Lindsey Vonn as the only women to win three straight World Cup overall titles in the last 25 years.
Shiffrin gained points Saturday on her top rivals from recent seasons. Swiss Wendy Holdener, last season’s overall runner-up, was seventh. Another Swiss, Lara Gut, the 2016 World Cup overall champ, was 14th.
“I was able to start the season with a podium and it’s a great thing,” Shiffrin said, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “It’s not enough, but it’s OK for now and it’s a good place to start.”
Worley, who relegated Shiffrin to GS silver at the 2017 Worlds, became the first Frenchwoman to win in Soelden. It’s her 13th World Cup win, all in giant slalom. She was a disappointing seventh in the PyeongChang Olympic GS.
The World Cup season continues with the opening men’s giant slalom in Soelden on Sunday (4 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold). Double Olympic champion Ted Ligety has won four times on the Rettenbach glacier.
Shiffrin is expected to headline the next women’s World Cup race, a slalom in Levi, Finland in three weeks. Vonn plans her season debut in her farewell year for the first speed events at Lake Louise, Alberta, in five weeks.
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