By The Associated Press on December 28, 2023.
LIENZ, Austria (AP) – Mikaela Shiffrin held on to a big first-run lead to win a women’s World Cup giant slalom amid tough course conditions Thursday for the American’s record-extending 92nd career victory.
Shiffrin lost most of her advantage as she skied a rather conservative final run, posting only the 17th fastest time. But it was enough to beat Federica Brignone by 0.38 seconds, a result that sent the Italian to the top of the discipline standings.
Sara Hector, the Olympic GS champion from Sweden, dropped from second after the opening run to third, trailing Shiffrin by 0.45. Valerie Grenier of St. Isidore, Ont., just missed the podium, 0.63 seconds off Shiffrin’s time and 0.18 seconds behind Hector.
“The second run was great skiing with a little bit more space,” said Shiffrin, who lost 1.25 seconds on Brignone in that final run.
“Federica, a few more gates and she would have probably taken it. So, that’s the next thing to learn for the coming races: you have to push in the second run.”
It was Shiffrin’s 22nd career win in GS, but first this season. The American is third in the discipline standings, 80 points behind leader Brignone and 45 behind Lara Gut-Behrami. The Swiss skier finished sixth Thursday.
“I was like, now I want to win it but I also really don’t want to mess it up, that would be so disappointing. So, it was a little back and forth in my thoughts,” Shiffrin said about trying to maintain her first-run lead. “Every (GS) race, I feel more comfortable and I think I have a really good focus with my skiing that can be simple. I can hopefully repeat it more and more races, so I’m super happy with the progress.”
Shiffrin positioned herself for the victory with a dominant first run, earning her an advantage of 0.63 seconds over Hector and 1.63 over Brignone.
“When I came through the finish, I didn’t expect it would be this much ahead, so I’m really happy with that. I’m happy with the skiing, I felt very strong, but I think, maybe, it’s one of those runs, it doesn’t happen that often,” Shiffrin said after the first run.
The American found the right balance between control and attack on the Schlossberg course, where a variation of grippy snow and icy spots caused problems for many racers.
“I know from the experience that you have to be really aggressive on this hill, but it’s quite challenging with the darkness and quite a lot of terrain,” said Shiffrin, who also won the GS in the Austrian Dolomites in 2019.
Four years ago, Shiffrin also won a slalom on the same hill the following day. A slalom is scheduled for Friday.
The first run was delayed for 12 minutes after one of the forerunners, who test the course before the first racer starts, crashed and needed medical attention for an apparent right arm injury.
The first starter, former World Cup GS champion Marta Bassino, also slid off the course and into the safety netting, causing another delay. The Italian seemed unhurt.
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