Slalom ends with rare tie for first, Shiffrin finishes Slalom 5th, 13th in Giant Slalom
Mikaela Shiffrin could not hold onto her undefeated record in Slalom at the Killington World Cup for the sixth time this past Sunday afternoon — a record she hit the previous weekend in Levi, Finland, winning the most Slalom races at a single venue with her sixth win there.
Wendy Holdener of Switzerland appeared to benefit from the Swiss-set course as she tied for first place with Anna Swenn-Larsson of Sweden. It was the first time a tie was recorded in Killington. It was also a first slalom win for Holdener and Swenn-Larsson’s first World Cup victory in her career.
“I am so happy. I have a lot of emotions, it is a dream come true,” Swenn-Larsson said, according to the International Ski and Snowboard Federation. “I fought really hard for this one, I’ve been fighting for it my whole life.”
Katharina Truppe of Australia finished third in the slalom while Petra Vlhová, a Slovak racer, who had finished second behind Shiffrin in four of Killington’s past slalom races, came in fourth place this year.
Shiffrin, a Burke Mountain Academy graduate who grew up racing in Vermont and New Hampshire, finished the slalom on Nov. 27 in fifth.
In Saturday’s giant slalom, Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland took home the victory, followed by Marta Bassino of Italy in second place and Sara Hector of Sweden in third. Shiffrin finished the giant slalom in 13th place.
The Killington Cup is the only women’s World Cup race in the U.S.
This was the women’s first giant slalom race of the season as the giant slalom, scheduled in Sölden, Australia in October, was canceled due to warm weather.
Shiffrin said she only started training for giant slalom two days before the races. She focused the start of the year solely on slalom training and it seemingly paid off — earning her the back-to-back slalom wins in Levi, Finland a week before Killington’s race. But, Shiffrin wasn’t feeling complacent.
“Nothing less than your very best is going to be good enough,” Shiffrin said before Killington’s race. “You have to really take some risks. I don’t care if I ski out today but I have to push my hardest. I really, really want to feel like I’m making my hardest, cleanest, most powerful turns. If I make 10 gates, I don’t care, I want to feel that.”
The start of the giant slalom race was moved down the hill due to high winds on Saturday, which made the beginning of the course a bit slower. Shiffrin said it impacted her timing. The shorter course also meant there was less room for error.
“You have to be full gas the whole way,” Shiffrin said at a press conference before the race. “It’s not the longest course we ski. You really have to be on point and risk everything. There are some tricks on the hill. There are some little pieces of terrain that have changed over the years so you have to be pretty tactical in some sections. The trick is to think enough but not think too much.”
The Killington snowmaking crew, which, as at other mountains, has struggled with warm weather at the start of the season, had covered the Superstar trail with feet of snow just days before the race — when temperatures finally cooperated.
An estimated 21,000 people attended the giant slalom on Saturday, breaking 2019’s attendance record of 19,500 people, according to Killington Resort. A total of 37,000 people attended the World Cup over all three days, Friday-Sunday.
About $650,000 was raised for the Killington World Cup Foundation through ticket sales and VIP packages. Over 300 volunteers took part.
“We definitely feel it was a success,” said Kristel Killary, Killington’s brand marketing and communications manager.
Killary said the course was injected with water before the race to make sure it remained firm for the racers.
“We have the world class snowmaking and grooming team to thank,” Killary said. “That was the reason the course stayed in good condition throughout the week.”
Despite the efforts, Shiffrin, along with other racers, struggled on Sunday. Shiffrin finished her first slalom run in first place and therefore went last in her second run. By the time it was Shiffrin’s turn, some areas of the slope had ruts as temperatures hovered around 50 degrees F. Shiffrin started the slalom strong but lost timing in the middle.
“I fought, some spots I got little off my timing,” Shiffrin told television cameras after the race. “Some spots I gave a little bit of respect to because of the tracks.”
But losing the lead can’t be blamed on course deterioration as the skier that went just before Shiffrin was Wendy Holdener, who won.
Other members of the U.S. women’s team had strong finishes in the giant slalom. Nina O’Brien, a Dartmouth College graduate, finished in 23rd place, Katie Hensien, a Denver University graduate, finished in 27th place and Paula Moltzan finished 18th.
This was Moltzan’s first time competing in giant slalom in her career. The Massachusetts native and University of Vermont graduate said before the race that she got to stop in Massachusetts to sleep in her own bed on her way to Killington. Her parents, her husband’s parents and grandparents as well as children from her home came to see Moltzan compete.
Moltzan also had help from her husband Ryan Mooney, another University of Vermont graduate and former competitor on the U.S. Ski Team. Mooney is now Moltzan’s technician. She said the race felt like home.
“I’m not a true Vermonter, but I’m an adopted Vermonter,” Moltzan said in a press conference before the race. “I think we know as a team that Killington has the best fans. As an adopted Vermonter, it’s always nice to see a couple familiar faces at the finish line.”
Moltzan fell in her first run of the slalom so didn’t qualify to race in the second run.
For Shiffrin, Killington also feels like a homecoming when she hears the crowd.
“It’s like this deep rumbling that soaks into your bones and gives you extra energy to get to the finish faster. That’s pretty special,” Shiffrin said. “It’s one of the unique places where the crowd’s not only cheering for one person booing everybody else, it’s looking for the most amazing show. For me that’s special and makes me really proud to race here, even if I’m not winning the race, it’s pretty special to be part of that.”
Prior to the race, Shiffrin spoke about the struggle of preparing for race day.
“It’s a race day that lasts nine hours but we’re only really working for two minutes,” she said at a press conference. “It’s pretty hard to keep your nerves at the right level and bring your intensity up at the right moment.”
Shiffrin has a trick— she naps before runs.
“My preferred state of existence is sleeping so anytime that’s possible is really a win for me,” she said.
While Shiffrin was racing in Giant Slalom in Killington, her boyfriend, Norwegian alpine racer Aleksander Kilde, won a downhill event at Lake Louise, Canada, Nov. 26.
After Shiffrin struggled last season, she said Kilde has helped her “bring the positivity back to racing.”
His advice? “Have a healthy amount of optimism but not fake optimism,” Shiffrin said. “Believe in your ability, make a plan, control what you can control and if you can’t control something, don’t worry about it.”
Shiffrin hugged Holdener and Swenn-Larsson after the race
“It’s a pretty special day, actually,” she told the television cameras. She then spent time signing autographs for fans.
She further reflected on her results on Instagram: “Results-wise, it wasn’t my best year here, but I also felt … I don’t know…closer to home than I have in a LONG time,” Shiffrin wrote. “ It’s a little hard to explain, but somehow I enjoyed the racing this year better than I have before.”
Shiffrin said her mentality toward racing has changed.
“I keep thinking, if I never win again … it sort of doesn’t matter. I’m not afraid of it not working. I feel like I can do the work, put in the effort and fight for the top spot.”