A slew of big-name Alpine skiing retirements opened the door for a new generation to emerge this season. Enter Alice Robinson, a 17-year-old from New Zealand who rallied to beat Mikaela Shiffrin in the very first race, a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria on Saturday.
Robinson overcame a .14 deficit after the morning run to edge Shiffrin by .06 after the afternoon run. Frenchwoman Tessa Worley was third. Full results are here.
Robinson, who was second to Shiffrin in the last giant slalom of the previous season in March, became the first skier from her nation to win a World Cup in 22 years and the youngest from any nation to do so since Shiffrin nearly seven years ago.
“It’s like a dream for me, and I’m still in shock,” said Robinson, the youngest Alpine skier at the PyeongChang Olympics who earned a place in last season’s World Cup Finals by winning the world junior title. “I had a feeling I was really going to like this slope.
“I was a bit nervous for the second run, but I just tried to hold it together. Just keep my nerves at bay and just try and enjoy it. Yeah, that’s what I did. I’m happy with it.”
Robinson denied Shiffrin her 61st World Cup win, which would have moved the American within one of fourth place all-time behind Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell.
Shiffrin said she made mistakes in her second run, but also that she wasn’t scared or nervous before the season opener for the first time in her career.
“For sure, there’s always disappointment when you come through the finish after the lead in the first run, you see the red light,” she said. “Alice skied just incredible today and just like she skied in Andorra [at the World Cup Finals] last year.
“This nothing-to-lose style, I can remember that in myself, so watching her is like taking a trip back in time.”
Earlier this week, Shiffrin said she has seen a “killer instinct” in the Kiwi. Robinson is coached by Chris Knight and Jeff Fergus, who formerly guided Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso and the U.S. speed team.
“Alice is going to be a really strong competitor, and obviously she’s young, so for many years to come,” Shiffrin said Monday. “She has the ability to train a lot because all summer long, our summer, she’s in New Zealand, and she’s training. And then during our winter, she’s racing. So she has this opportunity to get massive amounts of volume in, and she’s motivated.
“Maybe it’s motivation for me as well because sometimes I do take my foot off the gas. To see somebody young coming up with sort of this fresh mindset and just be like, yeah, I can do this, I don’t need to be intimidated. That’s a cool, refreshing outlook.”
The women next race a slalom in Levi, Finland, in four weeks. The men start in Soelden on Sunday (5 a.m. and 8 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold).
Also Saturday, Austrian Bernadette Schild went airborne and crashed in the second run, screaming once she came to a skidding halt.
The event was delayed nearly 15 minutes as several people tended to Schild, who has made seven World Cup slalom podiums. She was eventually helicoptered off.
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