SQUAW VALLEY, Calif. — It was a vintage California day on Saturday for the women’s World Cup slalom in Squaw Valley. The self-proclaimed ‘Spring Skiing Capitol’ delivered big time with bluebird skies, warm temps and and an American victory as Mikaela Shiffrin completed her sweep of the weekend, winning with a combined time of 1:39.48 seconds, a full 1.03 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Sarka Strachova of the Czech Republic and 1.08 seconds ahead of Austria’s Bernadette Schild in third.
Unfortunately, what made for awesome spectator weather provided quite the challenge for racers and course crew as it was a constant battle against the elements in order to keep the track in acceptable shape. Fortunately, low overnight temperatures made for a firm surface for much of the first run before the thermometer began to rise.
Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener took advantage of wearing bib number two and set the pace in run one with Shiffrin in hot pursuit, a razor-slim 0.02 seconds back. Strachova and Schild sat in fourth and fifth, 0.72 and 1.19 seconds off of the pace, respectively.
As the second run kicked off under intense sunshine, it felt more like beach weather than ski racing weather as it became evident in the early runners that it would be a fight to the finish for the fastest skiers from the first run. A quickly deteriorating course made for quite a few DNFs and some impressive jumps in the standings for some of the early starters.
Schild managed to battle her way down the demanding Red Dog slope and cross the line with an impressive lead until Strachova was able to sneak in front of the Austrian by only 0.05 seconds. After Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova — who sat in third after the first run — skied out just before the finish, the stage was set for Shiffrin to rise to the occasion and take control of the race. After a shaky start in the opening gates, the American found her groove and built up her lead, crossing the line with over a second to spare. Holdener held on to her lead through the final interval but heartbreakingly could not hang on through the final gates and spun out mere feet from crossing the finish line, giving Shiffrin the win.
Shiffrin also locked down this season’s slalom title with her win and her nearest competitor — Slovakia’s Veronika Velez-Zuzulova — failing to finish her first run. This will be Shiffrin’s fourth career slalom globe after missing out on the title last season to Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter due to injury.
“Sometimes you have to put it out there,” Shiffrin said of her performance. “I made recoveries and came out with the win and I think Wendy was going for it. I know how it feels to lose it on the last two gates and that absolutely sucks; it’s a huge bummer. I knew there was a chance (to win both races) and I just tried to do my best to make it happen and I’m very happy to be on this side of the weekend.”
“(The slalom title) was my first, highest goal so it’s pretty important but I tried not to think about it in the first run today or at all today and now I can think about that a bit more; I’m quite excited,” she added of her new crystal globe.
Strachova prefers challenging venues like Squaw and Aspen and relished the opportunity to show the World what she has as four of the Czech’s World Cup podiums — and both of her wins — have come on American soil.
“The hill is quite difficult; it’s steep and you have to push from the start to the finish,” Steachova explained. “I felt quite comfortable in the first run, maybe too much, and I lost a little more time. In the second run, the course was a bit broken and it’s not my cup of tea, but I tried to take a risk and when I went through the finish and I saw that I was in the lead, I believed that maybe it could be a podium.”
It was a special result for Schild, not only because it was her first podium appearance in three years, but also because she spent many summers in the Lake Tahoe area as a child with family friends.
“I like difficult races so I knew this hill with the steep start and the rollers at the bottom could be something for me. I had quite the mistake in the first run actually but I knew that if I do my thing and ski technically the way I can, I really can make the podium. Wendy was leading after first run and she was really close to finishing but she went out but that’s how it is and I got third.”
Apart from Shiffrin’s win, it was a tough day for the rest of the American contingent as Resi Stiegler and Lila Lapanja both failed to finish their first runs and independent racer Megan McJames did not qualify for the second.
The top 25 women in each discipline now pack their bags and head to Aspen, Colo. for World Cup Finals March 15-19.
Check out our gallery from Saturday’s race here.
Fans can stay up to date on World Cup by downloading the U.S. Ski Team – Ski Racing app for iOS and Android.
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Sarka Strachova (CZE) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Bernadette Schild (AUT) – Head/Head/Head
- Emelie Wikstroem (SWE) – Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
- Chiara Costazza (ITA) – Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Christina Geiger (GER) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Marina Wallner (GER) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Catharina Truppe (AUT) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Irene Curtoni (ITA) – Rossignol/Rosignol/Look
- Anna Swenn-Larsson (SWE) – Head/Head/Head
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|46||425921||HAUGEN Kristine Gjelsten||1992||NOR|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|27||197319||BAUD MUGNIER Adeline||1992||FRA|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|6||705287||VELEZ ZUZULOVA Veronika||1984||SVK|