December 1, 2021

Mikaela Shiffrin bags Soelden giant to join 70-win club in Olympic season opener

Mikaela Shiffrin won the season-opening women’s World Cup giant slalom in Soelden on Saturday, beating world champion Lara Gut-Behrami in a close fight for her 70th career victory.

The American three-time overall champion sat .02 behind Gut-Behrami after the opening leg but put in another clean run in the second to edge her Swiss rival by .14. The pair finished well ahead of the rest of the field, with defending overall champion Petra Vlhova of Slovakia trailing by 1.30 seconds in third. Shiffrin became only the third skier in World Cup history to reach the 70-win mark, after Ingemar Stenmark and Lindsey Vonn achieved the feat before they finished their careers on 86 and 82 wins, respectively.

Shiffrin’s 13th win in GS came seven years after she won her first race in the discipline at the same venue, sharing the 2014 victory with Austria’s Anna Fenninger. Italian GS specialists Marta Bassino and Federica Brignone both skied out. Bassino, who won the race a year ago and dominated the discipline with four wins last season, lost control of her right outside ski halfway through her first run, when she was already .57 behind then-leader Shiffrin.

Brignone was 1.52 behind after the first run in 15th before hooking a gate with her left arm in the second. Other big names struggled as well, with French standout Tessa Worley finishing 2.06 behind in eighth and New Zealand’s Alice Robinson, who won the season opener in 2019, coming 2.41 seconds off the lead in 11th. Shiffrin led a strong showing by the US ski team, which had four of their five starters scoring World Cup points, including a career-best ninth place for Nina O’Brien. Also, AJ Hurt placed 20th, and Paula Moltzan finished in 23rd.

Amid tight anti-coronavirus measures, the race was attended by 9,000 spectators. A minute’s silence prior to the race was dedicated to Gian Franco Kasper, the longstanding FIS president who died in July, just weeks after Johan Eliasch was elected as his successor.