In Ofterschwang, Germany, which is in the Bavarian Alps and one of the lowest elevated stops on the World Cup tour, the weather conditions and temperatures creates a slushy spring race. Organizers fought back with salt and hard work to solidify the track, creating an exciting race.
American Mikaela Shiffrin won the slalom with her trademark grace and clinched the fifth World Cup slalom globe of her young career. Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener and Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter shared the podium with her in second and third, respectively.
“I think they did a really good job for the course; for sure it’s warm and a little bit on the softer side; I am better on the ice,” said Hansdotter. “But I am satisfied with my skiing and it was a fun day.”
The first run was set by Shiffrin’s coach Mike Day, and she took advantage to take the early lead.
“This hill suits Mikaela. It’s not overly steep out of the start giving her the opportunity to establish a good feeling. I expect to see her building momentum across the middle of the course before charging down the final pitch,” said Jeff Lackie, one of Shiffrin’s coaches, before the race.
Shiffrin did her job well and led after the first run, but it turned out to be a tight race. Shiffrin did not separate herself as clearly as she had in many other races this season. Katharina Gallhuber and Bernadette Schild from Austria sat in second and third after first run, just 0.30 and 0.39 seconds off the pace, respectively.
“It was not easy to go into the second run and think, ‘Oh yeah, I am fine. I can just ski,” said Shiffrin.
The wild crowd and announcers could be heard from the start before her second run.
“I felt I really had to fight for the second run and I also knew Wendy had a great run because I could hear it from the announcer,” recalled the American.
The pressure was turned up for second run with a globe on the line. Shiffrin made it look easy. She skied with full confidence and executed the fundamentals, which especially important on a track like Saturday’s – softer and slushier including some bumps.
Nevertheless, Shiffrin charged to her 31st slalom win, and 42nd in total. She now owns the record for most World Cup wins before the age of 23, just three days before her birthday.
“My biggest challenge this year has not been the Olympics, or the (World Cup) overall or any of that,” admitted Shiffrin after a long Olympic season. “But getting motivated for these last races has been.”
For some athletes, these weren’t just the last races of the the season, but that last of their careers. Two big names waved goodbye to life on the women’s World Cup circuit in Ofterschwang: Michaela Kirchgasser from Austria and Veronika Velez Zuzulova from Slovakia. Both have had storied careers and also know the painful experiences of injuries.
Velez Zuzulova, who was on the World Cup tour for nearly two decades, and Kirchgasser, who made her World Cup debut in 2001, dressed up in costume and skied down the first run freely. They both stopped on the way down repetitively at their coaches’ positions to hug and thank them. Kirchgasser was stormed by her team mates in the finish area and champagne was sprayed all over.
Both athletes were well-respected by their competitors and will be missed on the White Circus.
“Well, it is sad to lose them both. They have been cool athletes and great personalities,” said Holdener about Velez-Zuzulova and Kirchgasser.
Shiffrin echoed Holdener.
“It was a funny day, but also really sad,” said Shiffrin. “I have been very inspired by them; I watched them when I grew up and I also had great fights with them over the past years; in particular with Veronika [Velez-Zuzulova].”
Now that the women’s regular season is over, qualified athletes are headed to World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden.
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Wendy Holdener (SUI) – Head / Head / Head
- Frida Hansdotter (SWE) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Petra Vlhova (SVK) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Katharina Gallhuber (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Bernadette Schild (AUT) – Head / Head / Head
- Erin Mielzynski (CAN) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE) – Head / Head / Head
- Michelle Gisin (SUI) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
- Katharina Liensberger (AUT) – Rossignol / Look / Rossignol
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|7||8||506146||SWENN LARSSON Anna||1991||SWE||55.53||55.19||1:50.72||+1.62||10.69||36|
|23||29||197319||BAUD MUGNIER Adeline||1992||FRA||57.19||55.65||1:52.84||+3.74||24.68||8|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|54||35089||SIMARI BIRKNER Macarena||1984||ARG||1:02.09||0|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|19||705287||VELEZ ZUZULOVA Veronika||1984||SVK||0|
|Disqualified 1st run|