Mikaela Shiffrin charges to victory in Squaw Valley giant slalom
OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — Mikaela Shiffrin stormed to victory through the final gates of the second run of the giant slalom on Friday, extending her lead in the overall World Cup standings.
The Eagle-Vail resident trailed Italy’s Federica Brignone by three-hundredths of a second at the last interval, but made up a tenth of a second in the final section of the race.
“I could feel I was losing it a little bit because I was getting bounced around a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “The last five gates, I thought, ‘Well, these girls are not going to give it to me.’ So I just tried to go as straight as I could down there and made up a little time. But I barely scraped by with that one.”
With warm weather at Squaw Valley, the course became soft and bumpy for the competitors during the second run. But after recording the fastest time in the first run of the day, Shiffrin was good enough in the second run for the win.
At the finish line, she threw her pole into the air in celebration as the American crowd roared.
“I’m really proud to do it in front of you guys,” she told the spectators.
It was extra special to inspire the young, aspiring ski racers watching in Squaw Valley and the U.S., she said.
“I remember being 5 years old, 8 years old going to races in Beaver Creek and watching Bode (Miller) win, and how much of an impact that had on me,” she said.
Shiffrin led Friday’s race by 0.20 seconds after the first run.
“I made a few mistakes but nothing was ginormous, and I was able to recover from it, and those mistakes were just because I was attacking,” Shiffrin said after the first run. “It’s a good sign about my mentality.”
SHOWDOWN IN ASPEN
Brignone finished second, while France’s Tessa Worley finished third.
Shiffrin pushed her lead in the overall World Cup standings to 278 points with five races left. Her closest competitor in the overall, speed specialist Ilka Stuhec, skied off course during the first run of Friday’s giant slalom.
Worley and Shiffrin are still battling for the giant slalom title, with Worley leading by 80 points heading into next week’s World Cup Finals in Aspen.
“Till next week,” Worley said. “It’s going to be very intense.”
The 21-year-old Shiffrin (her 22nd birthday is Monday) can wrap up the slalom title in today’s race. She leads Veronika Velez Zuzulova, of Slovakia, by 145 points.
This was Shiffrin’s 10th World Cup win of the season, and the 30th of her career.
HOW DOES SHE DO IT?
Shiffrin will be the favorite in today’s slalom, and she has her competitors marveling at her abilities.
“I feel like she doesn’t have questions in her mind,” Brignone said. “She knows how to ski every time, and she knows how to push and where to push. I always have those questions — ‘Am I going to be able to ski good? Am I going to be able to be fast?’ … I think she doesn’t have those problems. I think she’s really strong in her mind and she’s really a worker.”
Shiffrin said she has plenty of doubts, but also plenty of ambitions.
“I think people are afraid to be ambitious, to be honest,” she said. “I’m the person who says, ‘I want to be the very best in the world. I want to win five gold medals at the Olympics.’ It’s probably not going to happen, and I’m good with that. At least I’m not afraid to say it.”
Ed Stoner is editor of the Vail Daily, a sister news paper of the Sierra Sun’s based in Vail, Colo.