ASPEN, Colo. – As the snow fell early during the second run of giant slalom, Mikaela Shiffrin looked poised to take the first American victory in the women’s Aspen races since Tamara McKinney won the GS in March of 1981. Swiss spark plug Lara Gut sat in third after the completion of the first run, a distant 0.96 seconds behind Shiffrin’s opening pace.
Undaunted by the increasing snowfall, Gut took to the course and executed a fearless and aggressive second run, coming through the finish with a slim 0.10-second lead over last year’s GS winner, Eva Maria Brem of Austria. After Italian Frederica Brignone was unable to hold her leading margin from the start, slipping to third, one racer stood between Gut and another World Cup win.
Even with a commanding 0.96-second lead after run one, Shiffrin wasn’t about to hold back. Her lead was cut to 0.68 seconds at the final interval, but she appeared destined for the win by a respectable margin with the finish line in sight and just a few gates across the flat left to navigate.
Shiffrin, however, never made it across the finish line on her run. Getting caught going too straight on the final gates and trapped with her weight too far inside, her feet were swept out from beneath her as she slid downhill on her side. Shiffrin’s crash just before the finish effectively handed the victory to Gut with Brem finishing second and Brignone third.
Gut’s victory, her second in GS and 13th overall, puts her only two shy of Sonja Nef’s 15 victories for seventh place all-time among Swiss women.
“Aspen is a tough course. There are never two gates in a row that are easy to ski. You have to push hard from start to finish,” said Gut of the challenging slope. “I’m happy, I’ve been fourth and fifth here, so it’s good to be on the podium.”
For Gut, the victory signals her return to the elite ranks of World Cup GS, as she saw her world rank slip to 24th last season from fourth the year before.
“Two years ago I had a really nice season, it was my best season in GS and last year nothing worked,” she said. “It wasn’t easy and the problem is when you’re doing all events and racing race after race. I had no chance to fix my mistakes last year to improve my GS, but from March on, then I have time and it looks like it worked.”
Gut started the season off on the right foot with a fourth-place finish in the opening GS in Soelden, Austria. “In Soelden I was fourth. I would have loved to have been on the podium, for sure, but it was a really good start for me. I realized there that I was able to compete again with the best in GS. And today in the start gate, I thought, ‘You can ski, do what you can and not fight like last year, enjoy your run.’ And this is what happened.”
For Brem, frustration with her performance in the first run was motivation enough to propel her from eighth position onto the podium.
“I had really good training days the last few weeks so I was pretty disappointed after the first run,” said Brem. “After the last training days I was sure that I could fight for a victory. I was 1.30 behind after first run, and it just didn’t feel good. I didn’t have the confidence.”
“In the second run I had the same feeling on the first 10 gates and I don’t know why then I thought, ‘That’s not me, that’s not my skiing,’ and I just let go. The last half of the second run were more like my runs from last year,” Brem explained.
Brignone is off to a hot start as well this season after claiming victory last month in Soelden and her third-place finish today.
“I’m really happy. My goal for today was to be on the podium and I got it. With all of the mistakes I made second run I never thought I was going to be in the top three again,” admitted Brignone. “Mikaela was skiing so good and she was the best today and then she fell three gates from the finish. That’s the sport and everyone makes mistakes and it’s so difficult.”
After her uncharacteristic exit, Shiffrin was understandably disappointed yet also optimistic.
“I felt kind of scrappy that run. I definitely didn’t feel great, but I was fighting really hard and I’m proud of that. Two gates from the finish, I was like ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I made it this far!’ You should never, ever think that because immediately something bad will happen.”
Speaking of Shiffrin’s performance, Brignone had some kind words for her rival. “I think she’s really focused always. She knows how to ski, she knows how she has to improve, she knows everything. Today really surprised me. When I finished I thought for sure I was fourth because Mikaela isn’t going to make a mistake. She never falls, she’s really consistent,” the Italian said. “She’s perfect with her upper body – not like me. I’m always turning too much and going too fast for a few gates and she’s always online and in the right position. I have to try to be like her.”
Brignone clearly led the strongest team performance of the day as eight Italian women qualified for the second run, with six finishing in the top 16.
“It’s good to have a good group. Everyone is pushing each other and for them I am skiing good in the race so they know they can be on the top because we are skiing all together always,” said Brignone. “I’m not always in front in training. I’m often one of the last ones. They watch me and they know they can be good and this is great, everyone is pushing, everyone wants to be the best, it’s a great atmosphere. Everyone’s happy and we’re strong.”
The women will contest the make-up slalom from Levi tomorrow at Aspen with the first run starting at 10:15 a.m. local time. U.S. fans can tune into NBCSN to watch the second run live starting at 3:30 p.m. ET.
View more photos from today’s race here.
By Hank McKee
- Gut, Head/Head/Head
- Brem, Volkl/Fischer/Marker
- Brignone, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
- Moelgg, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
- Worley, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Loeseth, Volkl/Lange/Marker
- Rebensburg, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Hector, Head/Head/Head
- Hansdotter, Rossignnol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Baud Mugnier, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Women’s World Cup giant slalom, Aspen, USA, Nov. 27, 2015. … The race was originally slated for Nov. 28 but shifted up a day when Aspen accepted the make-up slalom from Levi. … It is the third race of 87 on the World Cup schedule. … The second of 41 women’s races and the second of nine scheduled women’s giant slaloms. … It is the 73rd World Cup race hosted by Aspen … the 23rd GS. … Eva-Maria Brem won the last World Cup GS at the site Nov. 29, 2014. Last American to win a World Cup GS at Aspen is Phil Mahre in 1983.
- It is the 13th career World Cup win for Lara Gut. … Just her second in GS, the previous coming in the 2013 season opener at Soelden Oct. 26. … She had previously been fourth (Nov. 24, 2013) and fifth (Nov. 26, 2011) at Aspen. … It is the first Swiss podium of the season.
- It is the eighth career World Cup podium for Eva-Maria Brem, all of them coming in GS. … Her only World Cup win came at Aspen Nov. 29, 2014. … It is the best Austrian placing of this season so far, bettering Marcel Hirscher’s third at Soelden.
- It is the ninth career World Cup podium placing for Federica Brignone and her second of the season also winning at Soelden Oct. 24. … It is her third podium at Aspen having finished third Nov. 29, 2014 and Nov. 27, 2015.
- The top five skiers were all within the same second.
- American Mikaela Shiffrin was the first run leader but fell victim in the final section of the second run. She was the only American skier to qualify for a second run. …
- Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon finished 16th as the lone North American on the results sheet.
- Brignone leads the overall and GS standings with 160pts. … Gut sits second with 150 and Brem third with 112. … Shiffrin is top American in sixth with 80pts. … Gagnon is the top Canadian in 18th with 21pts.
- Italy leads the women’s Nations Cup standings 393-170 over Sweden. … France and Switzerland are third with 166pts each. … The U..S sits eighth with 80pts, Canada 10th with 37pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|10||21||197319||BAUD MUGNIER Adeline||1992||FRA||1:01.71||1:02.98||2:04.69||+2.18||17.44|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|44||197124||FRASSE SOMBET Coralie||1991||FRA|