Tessa Worley

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World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Mikaela Shiffrin, Petra Vlhova share win in Maribor giant slalom

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The U.S.’ Mikaela Shiffrin returned to World Cup racing after a short recharging hiatus looking to win her third giant slalom of the season and extend her lead in the FIS GS point standings. Adding a giant slalom crystal globe win to her prolific list of accolades has been a goal for Shiffrin since the beginning of the season.

Shiffrin led the field by just under a half second after run #1 was complete. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova was positioned behind Shiffrin in second, with the reigning GS world champion, France’s Tessa Worley in third.

Vlhova, who entered the day fifth on the list of GS points, displayed the improvements she has made in her skiing this season. In her second run in Maribor, Vlhova burst through the finish to take the lead by .93 hundredths of a second. Before Vlhova, Worley’s day was ruined when her skis caught a rut on course, significantly slowing the French skier on her way to the finish.

With Worley unable to make the podium, and Vlhova well behind Shiffrin in the GS point standings, Shiffrin had the option to back off a touch, and still earn enough points from the race to retain her lead for the crystal globe.

Shiffrin appeared to do just that, at least in the section of the course which took Worley out of contention, but upon nearing the finish, Shiffrin began to make a charge. But instead of winning outright, Shiffrin crossed the finish, dead even with Vlhova with a combined two-run time of 2 minutes 31.31 seconds.

“It was a fight in the second [run],” Shiffrin said after the race. “I almost lost it at the bottom. It’s always nice when you kind of have this luck.

“I saw Petra from the start and I was like, “Okay, I better up the ante a little bit.””

Full results are here.

Joining Shiffrin and Vlhova on the podium was Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel in third. Worley finished the day in ninth, making Shiffrin’s quest for her first GS crystal globe one that is hers to either win or lose. There now remains just two GS events on the 2018-19 World Cup calendar.

The women are back on the Slovenian snow tomorrow to race slalom. Stream the first run live on OlympicChannel.com or with your NBC Sports Gold Snow Pass starting at 4:00 a.m. ET, and catch the second and deciding run at 7:00 a.m. ET on TV or streaming with Olympic Channel or NBC Sports Gold.

The men’s World Cup tour starts their weekend in Garmisch-Partenkirchen with the downhill on Saturday morning beginning at 5:30 a.m. ET. Catch the race live on  Olympic Channel on TV, or stream it live on all devices using an NBC Sports Gold Snow Pass.

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MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin highlights Olympic sports action this week

Mikaela Shiffrin misses podium as Olympic golds quest gets tougher

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Plenty of talk about Mikaela Shiffrin possibly winning three gold medals in PyeongChang, but the last two days showed just how tough that task will be.

France’s Tessa Worley notched her first international giant slalom win on Saturday since claiming the world championships and World Cup titles in the event last season.

German Viktoria Rebensburg, the 2010 Olympic GS champ, was second on Saturday, extending her lead in this season’s World Cup GS standings.

Shiffrin was seventh, four days after crashing out of the previous giant slalom. Before this week, Shiffrin placed in the top six of the last 15 giant slaloms since the start of the 2016-17 season.

Full Saturday results are here.

Lenzerheide marked the final World Cup giant slalom before the Olympics.

Shiffrin was the strongest GS racer around the new year, but Rebensburg has unquestionably been the top woman in the event over the whole season. The German has three wins and two runners-up in seven World Cup GS races.

Couple that with Swiss Wendy Holdener routing Friday’s super combined by 1.55 seconds. Holdener won the 2017 world title in the combined, though Shiffrin wasn’t in that field or in Friday’s race. Holdener also recorded both victories on home snow in Switzerland.

Shiffrin has been billed as the Olympic favorite in slalom, GS and the combined — Sports Illustrated picked her to win all three — but it wouldn’t shock anyone if Worley, Rebensburg or Holdener keeps the world’s best all-around skier from the record-tying triple.

Toni SailerJean-Claude Killy and Janica Kostelic share the mark of three Alpine titles at a single Games.

Shiffrin headlines her trademark event, a slalom, in Lenzerheide on Sunday, streaming on OlympicChannel.com and the Olympic Channel app with the second run also airing on NBCSN.

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MORE: Alpine skiing season broadcast schedule