Kaite Hensien kicked the season off with a bang, claiming the U.S. national women’s giant slalom title at Copper Mountain on Monday. The weeklong event replaces the 2020 U.S. Alpine Championships, which were scheduled for last March in Panorama and Aspen. Both events were cancelled due to COVID-19.
Hensien, who is generally considered a slalom specialist, won the opening race by 0.63 seconds ahead of fellow U.S. teammates Keely Cashman and Allie Resnick, who rounded out the podium.
Hensien worked hard over the summer to take her GS to the next level. When COVID-19 sadly cut the season short, Hensien spent the extra time training in the gym and focusing on the fundamentals of her skiing.
Hensien refers to herself as a more tactical skier, which she says has jeopardized her GS results in the past. This year, she has adjusted her focus to push the boundaries, skiing a more aggressive line. When inspecting, Hensien is working to keep it simple, rather than concentrating on the technical and tactical changes in the course. When Hensien stood in the start gate on Monday, she told herself to keep it simple and just go.
“The first run I knew I had to go for it,” said Hensien. “There were former national champions and high-level skiers that have made second runs in World Cups, so I knew I had to push it. I came down and was like, ‘Whoa, this has never happened before.’”
Conditions were near-perfect Colorado skiing: blue skis and aggressive snow. Hensien kept pressure on her ski while not letting up the tempo in the consistent course down Lights Out pitch. She came down after the first run leading by .40 seconds over Canadian racer Mikaela Tommy. Moving into the second run, nerves flooded her mind, but she knew, since the course was not changing between first and second run, she just had to keep her routine and do it again.
“My second run wasn’t my best run, but I somehow put it together,” said Hensien. “I had a couple mistakes but knew I had to keep projecting down the hill and keep my speed going. Somehow I held it together and pulled through.”
The victory today is one of the highlights of Hensien’s career, and she hopes it will provide confidence going into the season. Amid the uncertainty, she is grateful to be back racing after a six-month break with her friends, competitors, and teammates.
“It honestly really hasn’t hit me yet,” said Hensien. “I shocked myself, I didn’t even know I had it in me.”
After a few days off snow, Hensien will return to a day of training before the slalom race later this week.
Women’s 2020 U.S. National Championships – Giant Slalom