Sestriere

Mikaela Shiffrin among favorites eliminated early in parallel giant slalom

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Mikaela Shiffrin was upset in the round of 16 of the first World Cup parallel giant slalom by unheralded Frenchwoman Clara Direz, who went on to earn her first win on Sunday.

Shiffrin had the fastest qualifying time but was bounced in the second round of head-to-head racing in Sestriere by Direz. Direz, 24, came into the day with a best career finish of seventh.

Direz was 16th-fastest in qualifying, 1.02 seconds behind Shiffrin combining times from two runs. Direz edged Shiffrin by .13 in their head-to-head run. Shiffrin appeared to be at a disadvantage being put on the red course, which produced just three winners among 20 one-run matchups.

“It is fun; I think I like the parallel GS actually more than the parallel slalom, but it’s a little bit difficult,” Shiffrin said. “I think there’s still a lot of work we have to do, and FIS [the International Ski Federation] has to do to really make the race as even as it can be because for sure you can see, there’s always a faster course. But today it’s like they’re not even the same course at all. Especially in the last four, five gates on the blue course, you can even see just looking up the hill that it’s straighter than the red course.

“Today I would say it’s a day where the luck [of which course you draw randomly] really plays a role.”

Direz eventually beat Austrian Elisa Moerzinger in the final. Direz was on the blue course for three of her four one-run rounds. Full results are here.

Higher-ranked racers used to be have their choice of courses in the parallel format.

“Maybe that wasn’t fair, either, but I think there must be a way to make it something that is more even, but at the same time, yeah, I don’t really have the answers on how to do that, either,” Shiffrin said. “It’s still in its infancy, this event.”

Shiffrin has a track record of success in parallel slaloms and similar city events, winning five of her last six starts. But the parallel GS proved problematic for the world’s best in slalom.

Swiss Wendy Holdener and Slovakian Petra Vlhova were also eliminated before the quarterfinals after being second- and third-fastest in qualifying. Holdener was also on the red course. Vlhova lost in the round of 32, when skiers were taking runs on both the blue and red courses.

Sestriere marked the last weekend of technical races (slaloms/giant slaloms) until mid-February. The next three weekends feature downhills and super-Gs. Shiffrin is expected to travel to Bansko, Bulgaria, for the first set on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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MORE: Shiffrin among 10 dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s decade

Mikaela Shiffrin, with uncharacteristic show of emotion, takes record

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Mikaela Shiffrin has described her subdued victory celebrations as dorky. Sunday’s was anything but.

The youngest Olympic slalom champion pumped both fists, then just her right fist, accompanied with screams, after winning her record-tying 11th straight World Cup slalom race in Sestriere, Italy.

“I tried to have some fun in the second run, I don’t know,” Shiffrin said three minutes later. “Are you guys having fun out here? Crowd, scream!”

Shiffrin had the fastest time in both runs, winning by 1.09 seconds over Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova. Swiss Wendy Holdener was third.

However, her lead was cut to .07 at a split midway through her second run. She stormed through the final gates to win comfortably.

FULL RESULTS | RACE REPLAY

Shiffrin is now shares the women’s record for consecutive World Cup wins in any discipline with Annemarie Moser-Proell, who won 11 straight downhills from 1972-74.

Shiffrin has said her streak shouldn’t really count, since she missed five straight slaloms last season due to injury.

With Sunday’s win, Shiffrin increased her lead in the World Cup overall standings to 105 points over Swiss Lara Gut, the defending champion, after nine of a scheduled 37 races.

The women’s World Cup continues with a combined, downhill and super-G in Val d’Isere, France, next weekend. Shiffrin said she doesn’t think she’ll race in Val d’Isere, meaning Gut will likely take the World Cup overall lead.

Shiffrin raced her first career downhills in Lake Louise, Alberta, last weekend, finishing 18th and 13th, plus 34th in a super-G.

“I’m not racing well enough [in speed races] to really make a difference,” Shiffrin said of skipping Val d’Isere.

Olympic champions Lindsey VonnAnna Veith and Julia Mancuso have yet to make their season debuts, all out due to injuries.

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Correction: An earlier version of this post stated Vreni Schneider won 12 straight slaloms. She won 10 straight, her streak snapped by failing to finish a race.