Viktoria Rebensburg

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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Mikaela Shiffrin, powered by Instagram message, second in Killington (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin, after finishes of fifth, second and second in her first three races this season, an uplifting Instagram message and listening to Eminem all day — had this to say:

“I feel like I’m chasing a little bit,” she said after a runner-up in a World Cup giant slalom in Killington, Vt. “Today was definitely a better performance, but I still feel like I’m chasing, which is, actually, my favorite place to be because I feel less like I have to perform and more like I’m doing it for myself.”

That may seem unusual for the reigning World Cup overall champion, a 22-year-old who dominated slalom the last several years.

But Shiffrin is facing new challenges. She was beaten in her last two slaloms by Slovakian Petra Vlhova, who is three months younger.

On Saturday, German Viktoria Rebensburg won her second straight giant slalom. The 2010 Olympic GS champion also prevailed in the season’s first race in Soelden, Austria, in October, after going winless last season.

Shiffrin, the No. 2 GS skier in the world last season, ended up .67 of a second behind Rebensburg after two runs in front of some 18,000 people.

Rebensburg led by .26 over Shiffrin after the morning run and also had the fastest afternoon run by .32.

Shiffrin looked primed to vault into the lead when Rebensburg, the last skier to go, was halfway through her second run. Rebensburg’s advantage was trimmed to .08, but the veteran made up six tenths in the last 30 seconds.

Shiffrin was also second after the first run of the previous giant slalom last month. But she made an uncharacteristic mistake in her second run and dropped to fifth place, .74 behind the resurgent Rebensburg.

Knowing that, Shiffrin was pleased with Saturday’s runner-up that matched her result in the first World Cup slalom two weeks ago.

“I was excited to put some risk on the hill,” Shiffrin said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I’ve done a lot of races where I’m second place or first place in the first run and then I ended up falling back to fifth or sixth or past that. So it was really nice to know that I had gone for it, and it paid off.”

Italian Manuela Moelgg was third, 1.49 seconds behind. Full results are here.

Shiffrin, who finished fifth in the Sochi Olympic giant slalom, improved to silver behind Tessa Worley of France at last season’s worlds. Worley was sixth Saturday.

Rebensburg, who at 28 is six years older than Shiffrin, is challenging for Olympic GS favorite. She was third in the Sochi Olympic GS, then took silver at the 2015 Worlds before going 19 months between wins.

Shiffrin is still looking for her first win of the season, but she speaks in high spirits after a 2016-17 campaign that brought anxiety and led her to work with a sports psychologist.

Before Saturday’s race, Shiffrin was boosted by a fan’s Instagram message.

“We’re not hear to watch you win,” she told Shiffrin. “We’re here to support you. We’re just here to watch ski racing. We’re so excited, so we hope you don’t feel pressure from us.

“I read this message,” Shiffrin continued. “I was like, that made me feel so much better. So, to the fans out there who are writing direct messages, I do read them. And thank you.”

The women contest a slalom Sunday in Killington (broadcast schedule here), an anticipated head-to-head between Shiffrin and Vlhova.

The Slovakian emerged as the biggest slalom threat to Shiffrin since the American displaced Austrian Marlies Schild in the year before the Sochi Winter Games.

“The last Olympics, it’s almost like I forgot the Olympics were that season until February rolled around,” said Shiffrin, who wore new boots for Saturday’s race. “I’m trying to actually peak almost every single weekend when I’m doing slalom, GS, super-G and some downhill. It’s less of trying to have a huge peak for the Olympics and just sort of trying to peak every single race. The Olympics is included in that, which makes it a little bit easier in a way. I don’t have just one goal for the Olympics this year. I have a lot of goals that are equally as important to me.”

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Killington Giant Slalom
1. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) — 1:57.63
2. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — .67
3. Manuela Moelgg (ITA) — 1.49
29. Megan McJames (USA) — 4.12

Mikaela Shiffrin bumped off podium in Soelden; Lindsey Vonn struggles

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Mikaela Shiffrin opened the Olympic season with a rare costly mistake, getting bounced off her line and finishing fifth in a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Saturday.

Lindsey Vonn was 34th and 3.31 seconds behind in the first run, where the top 30 advanced to a second run. Giant slalom is not one of her best disciplines.

German Viktoria Rebensburg, the 2010 Olympic GS champ, won by .14 of a second over France’s Tessa Worley after two runs. Italy’s Manuela Moelgg was third.

Shiffrin was .74 back in fifth, losing about one second in the first half of her second run, which included going well wide of that one gate. Shiffrin was second-fastest in the opening run, .12 behind Moelgg.

Full results are here.

“The biggest competition I have right now is with myself,” Shiffrin said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “I feel really good with where my GS is right now. I’m disappointed because I didn’t make turns today like I know I can.”

Shiffrin, 22 and fifth in the Sochi Olympic GS, improved to become the world’s second-best GS skier last season behind Worley.

Vonn last raced giant slalom Jan. 30, 2016 and last won a GS on Dec. 12, 2015, her only finish better than fifth in a GS since January 2013.

She does hope to race GS in PyeongChang, where she should be a medal favorite in downhill and super-G.

“I just didn’t push myself enough. I was kind of too conservative where I could have let it go. But it was nice to get started,” Vonn said, according to USA Today. “I was wishing to get some points [by finishing in the top 30], but that’s life.”

Lara Gut (2016 World Cup overall champion) and Sofia Goggia (third in 2017 World Cup overall) skied out in the first run Saturday.

The start was moved down due to high winds.

Olympic champion Ted Ligety headlines the men’s field racing Soelden on Sunday. An Alpine broadcast schedule is here.

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MORE: Vonn: Women viewed as ‘second-rate’ on World Cup

Soelden Women’s Giant Slalom
1. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) — 1:55.20
2. Tessa Worley (FRA) — +.14
3. Manuela Moelgg (ITA) — +.53
5. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — +.74
34. Lindsey Vonn (USA)
42. Megan McJames (USA)
47. Foreste Peterson (USA)