SEMMERING – Mikaela Shiffrin had to overcome a lot of pressure Tuesday to end her one-year drought in women's World Cup giant slaloms.
And not all the pressure on the American was coming from her rivals.
Holding a big advantage of 0.72 seconds, Shiffrin found it hard to focus on her last run. Standing in the start house on top of the Panorama course, the race leader could hear exactly how well her competitors were doing.
“You can hear the (finish area) announcer on the top, she's announcing in English, so it’s really getting into my head," Shiffrin said after the race.
After she heard the announcer enthusiastically call new best times for Marta Bassino and then for Petra Vlhová, Shiffrin tried to tell herself: “Just ignore it!”
She knew she had to push hard all the way — and did just that. Shiffrin lost nearly six-tenths of her advantage but ultimately beat Vlhová by 0.13 seconds, the American’s first triumph in the discipline in more than a year.
“It’s quite loud at the start, there is a lot of distraction. And I was starting to get really nervous, so I just tried to push. These other women pushed so hard on the second run, they almost caught up all the way,” Shiffrin said.
The result marked Shiffrin’s fourth World Cup win of the season and 78th overall, leaving her four short of the women’s record set by her former teammate Lindsey Vonn.
Bassino, who won the previous GS and remains in the lead of the discipline standings, was 0.31 behind in third. France's Tessa Worley, who was third after the opening run, dropped to fourth, and Olympic GS champion Sara Hector of Sweden trailed by 1.52 in eighth.
It was the 15th GS win in total for Shiffrin, who was the 2018 Olympic champion, but the first since triumphing in Courchevel, France, in December 2021. She had just one podium result from the seven previous giant slaloms in the calendar year 2022.
“Very special,” Shiffrin said about ending the drought. “GS is one of the hardest events for me, but also, when I’m skiing well, then it’s just amazing.”
The race was a replacement for the season-opening giant slalom that was canceled in another Austrian resort, Sölden, in October, and is the first in a three-day series, followed by another GS on Wednesday and a night slalom the next day.
“The start of (an event) with three races is always a bit nerve-racking. You hope that you are on the right shape, that you can bring intensity to the start,” Shiffrin said.
Shiffrin won all three events when Semmering last hosted races on three consecutive days in December 2016 and she was on her way to the first of her four overall World Cup titles.
Tuesday's race was also the first in a series of eight technical events in Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia.
“It's important to start this block with good skiing, with a good mindset, a good mentality, and the right motivation,” Shiffrin said. “I feel I’m there, so no matter what happens the next two days, it’s a really, really good place to start this block.”
Sofia Goggia, the Italian speed specialist who is runner-up to Shiffrin in the overall standings, does not compete at Semmering, enabling the American to extend her lead to 205 points.
Valérie Grenier posted the fourth-fastest time in the opening run but was disqualified as the Canadian had left the start house too early.
Shiffrin’s American teammate Paula Moltzan placed 10th, two weeks after earning her career-best eighth at a GS in Italy.
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