Olympic champion Shiffrin dominates GS, regains overall lead

Sports

United States’ Mikaela Shiffrin speeds down the slope during the first run of an alpine ski, women’s World Cup giant slalom, in Courchevel, France, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Giovanni Maria Pizzato)

COURCHEVEL, France (AP) — Known for being modest about her achievements, even Mikaela Shiffrin used a superlative Tuesday to describe her dominant win in a women’s World Cup giant slalom.

“Very spectacular,” the Olympic champion said.

Shiffrin won the first of two midweek races on the Emile Allais course, building on a big lead from the first run to finish .86 seconds ahead of Sara Hector of Sweden, who posted the fastest second-run time.

“To be able to ski this way today, even with fatigue and less energy, is very spectacular,” said Shiffrin, who competed in her 11th event of the season, more than any of her competitors.

“After the last weeks, pushing the schedule hard, it’s been a lot just to get here and we’re just starting this next tech block, so I’m not full tank right now. But I felt like I really skied some of my best skiing and some of my toughest skiing today. That’s just really incredible.”

The American was coming off a surprise appearance at a super-G in nearby Val d’Isère on Sunday, where she finished fifth.

“Years and years of wanting to go there and we finally did it,” she said about the Val d’Isère race. “And to come here today, there was a big question on my mind if it was the right decision, and if it was going to be too much.”

It certainly wasn’t too much on Tuesday.

Shiffrin opened with a near-flawless opening run, and increased her lead over Hector to more than 1.5 seconds before avoiding risks in the final part of her second run.

Michelle Gisin of Switzerland, who was second after the opening run, dropped to third place, 1.08 behind Shiffrin.

Defending overall champion Petra Vlhova, who skipped the last three weekends of speed racing to focus on the technical events, finished fourth.

Shiffrin reclaimed the overall lead from Sofia Goggia, who failed to finish her second run after she lost balance when hitting a bump on the icy surface. Goggia had overtaken Shiffrin at the top of the standings with two wins in nearby Val d’Isère last weekend.

World Cup giant slalom champion Marta Bassino, Goggia’s teammate on the Italian team, failed to finish her first run after she slid off the course into the safety netting half a minute into her run.

“I think I have a pretty good tactics for skiing the hill with an aggressive mindset. I really skied that how I wanted to ski it,” said Shiffrin, who also won the race last year for her emotional first victory after returning from a 10-month break from the sport following the death of her father.

“There was just so much leading up to the victory last year, it was so different from anything that I knew or experienced before. I feel like I have settled into my new self a little bit more. I feel some motivation now, I feel a lot more fire.”

It was Shiffrin’s 72nd career victory, leaving her 10 short of the women’s best mark set by Lindsey Vonn.

Also, her 14th GS win put Shiffrin in a tie for third place on the all-time winners list, trailing only Vreni Schneider, who racked up 20 wins, and Annemarie Moser-Pröll, who had 16.

World champion Lara Gut-Behrami, slalom World Cup winner Katharina Liensberger, and Alice Robinson had to skip the race after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Gut-Behrami and Liensberger placed second and fourth, respectively, in the only previous GS this season, which was won by Shiffrin. Robinson had won the season-ending race in March.

The trio was expected to also miss a second GS in the French Alps on Wednesday, which replaces the race that was canceled in Killington, Vermont, last month.

The sport is being affected by a rising number of positive COVID-19 tests, with the Austrian Ski Federation announcing Tuesday that Christian Hirschbühl, who won a World Cup parallel event last month, had also contracted the virus and would not compete in a men’s slalom in Italy on Wednesday.

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