Reigning World Championship and World Cup slalom queen Mikaela Shiffrin made more strides in the giant slalom discipline when the 2013-14 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup tour visited Lienz, Austria for two post-holiday technical races.
Shiffrin, 18, of Eagle-Vail, Colo. returned to the site of her first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup slalom podium to further her status as a giant slalom threat by finishing third Saturday, Dec. 28 at Lienz.
Fourth after the opening run, Shiffrin stormed within .01 of second place on the icy slope for just the second World Cup giant slalom podium of her young career. Her first came Dec. 1 in Beaver Creek, Colo. site of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
Austria’s Anna Fenninger won Saturday’s GS—becoming the fifth different GS winner in five events this season.
On Sunday, Shiffrin put down the fastest first-run slalom time, but couldn’t hold off 32-year-old Marlies Schild of Austria in the second run. Schild was 1.10 seconds faster than Shiffrin in the second run to win her second straight World Cup slalom and a record 35th slalom of her career.
The Austrian village is the site of her Shiffrin’s World Cup slalom podium when she was third on Dec. 29, 2011. And Shiffrin maintained a 202-200 edge over Schild in the slalom standings after three events.
Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch, 29, placed third in Sunday’s slalom and pulled into the overall women’s World Cup lead in a very tight four-racer field. Downhill leader Hoefl-Riesch has 611 points whereas Tina Weirather, 24, of Liechtenstein has 609 points and Fenninger 597. Early-season leader Lara Gut, 22, of Switzerland is fourth with 568 points.
So, just 43 points separate the top four racers as the women move to Bormio, Italy for more slalom Jan. 5. Shiffrin stands in sixth place overall with 414 points—about halfway to the 822 points she achieved last winter en route to fifth place in the overall standings.
Saturday’s race was the final 2014 Olympic qualification race in women's giant slalom. The Olympic U.S. Alpine Ski Team will be named Jan. 26. Julia Mancuso, 29, of Squaw Valley, Ca. finished 29th and planned to return to the U.S. for break. Mancuso will return to action for the speed series Jan. 11-12 in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria.
The slalom podium for Shiffrin was her 12th top-3 career finish. Leading after the first run despite light rain, Shiffrin couldn’t hold her lead in the foggy and rutted final as Schild earned her historic 35th career slalom win breaking the record of Swiss racer Vreni Schneider set in 1995.
Shiffrin’s mother, father and brother were on hand to see Sunday’s successful conclusion to the weekend for the young champion.
Resi Stiegler, 28, of Jackson Hole, Wyo., 21st after the first run, finished 16th for her best result of the 2014 Olympic season.
Stiegler said, “We don’t get to race at home often. I consider Beaver Creek kind of like home because it’s our training space. Here in Lienz I get to stay at my own house, cook my own food. The town is so amazing, (the crowd) has always been amazing to me. So it’s special and it feels good.”
Ganong makes Olympic statement
Travis Ganong, 25, of Squaw Valley, Ca. made another positive stride toward his first Olympic Winter Games with a tie for 10th in Sunday’s rugged Bormio downhill to lead the U.S. Ski Team.
The U.S. Olympic alpine team will be named Jan. 26.
Starting second, Ganong powered though snow at the top of the notorious Stelvio and through rattling bumps in the middle section to post his best Audi FIS Alpine World Cup finish of the season.
Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, who skied in relatively clear conditions, skied a flawless line to win the race for the 25th World Cup victory of his career. Downhill leader Svindal, 31, also won the Beaver Creek downhill Dec. 6 and was fourth at Lake Louise, Canada and Val Gardena, Italy.
Svindal stretched his World Cup overall lead to 630-435 over Austria’s two-time defending overall king Marcel Hirscher, 24. American Ted Ligety, 29, is third with 329 points and Bode Miller eighth with 230. Ganong stands in 42nd place with 85 points and is 20th in the downhill ranks with 61.
The men will stay in Bormio for slalom on Monday, Jan. 6. The event was originally scheduled for Zagreb, Croatia but moved to Bormio because of lack of snow at Zagreb.