Mikaela Shiffrin was the top finishing American in Thursday's giant slalom—taking eighth overall. (Getty Images-Doug Pensinger)
VAIL/BEAVER CREEK, CO (Feb. 12. 2015)—The speed races wrapped on Beaver Creek’s renowned Birds of Prey terrain and the World Champs focus switched to the technical events. Of the 116 women at the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships giant slalom (GS) on Thursday, Mikaela Shiffrin (Vail, CO) took eighth and Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) was 14th. In the end, Austria’s Anna Fenninger stood atop the podium, flanked by Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany in second and Sweden's Jessica Lindell-Vikarby in third.
The two-run GS is known as the most technical of all the World Cup disciplines, requiring precision and speed. Billed as the most competitive race of the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships, the women’s GS event became a competition for silver and bronze after Austrian superstar Anna Fennigner’s first run. Fenninger went into the second run with a massive 1.70-second lead over the runner up in the first run.
The Austrian’s lead proved to be insurmountable, but Fenninger’s win did not come without drama. Fenninger nearly crossed her ski tips as she was increasing her lead over the field, but an athletic recovery saved her second run and ensured her second gold medal and third total medal at this year’s World Championships—tying Slovenia’s Tina Maze for medal count.
Maze’s bid for an unprecedented five medals at these World Champs was snubbed as she missed the GS podium. Nudging Maze off the podium were Rebensburg, who skied a perfect second run, and Norway’s Lindell-Vikarby.
Americans Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn headlined USA’s effort in the giant slalom. Crowds were incredibly supportive of both the hometown skiers. Neither Shiffrin nor Vonn call GS a specialty, but both athletes went for it.
After a rough first run, Lindsey Vonn threw down a great second run—taking 14th overall.
“I felt like my skiing the second run was quite a bit better,” said Shiffrin, after overskiing her first run. “I was attacking more and I found my line and the grooves a little bit better. But I have some work to do in the flats for sure.”
But Shiffrin is ready to put it all out for Saturday’s slalom, her specialty. “I’m still a little bit afraid to make mistakes and I have to get rid of that,” remarked Shiffrin. “If you don’t risk it then you don't get the big win.”
Vonn’s dominance has recently come via speed events, but she slid into the start gate to a resounding cheer from her fans below.
“It’s nice to be back in the technical disciplines again,” said Vonn. “While it may not have been my best performance, I’m still taking away a lot of positives from it…. I do a lot of speed, but I need technical training as well.”
A disappointed Vonn was nearly three seconds off of Fenninger’s leading time after her first run down the GS course. However, she was determined to throw down a World Championships-worthy run on her second attempt in front of her friends, family and boyfriend. And she did, putting together the fifth-fastest second run. Had Vonn put together a first run like her second run, she would have had a chance for a top-five result, illustrating how versatile she truly is on snow. Even so, she threw her hands up in the finish at the end of the race, happy to represent her hometown.
Hometown heroes Vonn and Shiffrin smile in the finish.
Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, CA) finished in the top 30, as well, taking 26th place. Megan McJames was 34th.
Tomorrow, the men will take on the giant slalom track and the ski world will be watching Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) as he races in his specialty event. Watch both runs live—with Universal Sports Network covering first run at 12:00 p.m. EST and NBCSN airing second run at 4:00 p.m. EST.
Maze was shooting for five medals at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, trying to tie the legendary Lasse Kjus of Norway. Kjus won five medals at the 1999 World Championships in Vail, CO. Maze missed the GS podium by 0.15.
Fenninger’s GS win gave her a third medal at this year’s World Champs—two gold medals (super G and GS) and one silver (downhill).
Fenninger is the reigning overall World Cup champion in giant slalom.
QUOTES Mikaela Shiffrin I felt like my skiing the second run was quite a bit better. I was attacking more and I found my line and the grooves a little bit better. But I have some work to do in the flats for sure—producing speed out of nothing instead of just carrying speed.
I’m feeling pretty good with where my GS is at. It didn’t really show through today. I have some work to do with straighter, more open courses and work to do on the flats. Pretty much in all of the rest of the World Cup GSs, you have a lot of flat and they tend to set them really open. I know what I have to work on. It would be nice to get a medal, but that shouldn't be the goal. The second run I just tried to be loose, free my mind and ski as well as I could given where I am in my GS skiing. I know that I’m making improvements and I’m excited.
I’m still a little bit afraid to make mistakes and I have to get rid of that. If you don’t risk it then you don't get the big win.
Lindsey Vonn It’s nice to be back in the technical disciplines again. While it may not have been my best performance, I’m still taking away a lot of positives from it. I'm looking forward to Maribor and the rest of the technical GS races. It will be fun. I do a lot of speed, but I need technical training as well.
I really enjoyed having the support of the crowd and my family being here. I think I just maybe wanted to do too well. At the same time, in the downhill I felt so good, but I just haven’t been on ice in so long and my equipment maybe wasn’t perfect. Things just didn’t really work out.
I’m still happy with these World Championships. I’m honored to be racing in front of my home crowd and I’m leaving here with a very special feeling. Even though I didn’t get as many medals as everyone expected me to, I still am happy with my performance. At the end of the day all you can do is your best and that’s certainly what I did.
I think I could have been in the top five today, but I wasn’t expecting anything. I was just going out there and skiing the best that I could. I was maybe a little bit more relaxed my second run because I knew I would either go 120 percent or not get any points so it didn’t really matter. I just pushed it as hard as I could. Sometimes that pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. Today it did.
Tiger [Woods] wanted me to end on a positive note. He said “show them what you can do second run,” and that’s what I did.