Mikaela Shiffrin, 24, meet the Kiwi version of you: 17-year-old Alice Robinson, who on Saturday became the youngest ski racer since Shiffrin to win a World Cup race by claiming a giant slalom on Soelden, Austria.
Shiffrin, an Edwards resident and the most dominant alpine racer of her generation, was leading after the first run by .14 seconds only to see New Zealand’s Robinson win the season-opening GS by a scant .06 seconds over Shiffrin in the second run.
Tessa Worley of France was third.
Shiffrin sort of predicted the result earlier in the week, according to NBC Olympic Talk, saying she saw a “killer instinct” in Robinson, who is coached by Chris Knight and Jeff Fergus – the former U.S. speed team coaches for retired greats Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso.
“Alice is going to be a really strong competitor, and obviously she’s young, so for many years to come,” Shiffrin said earlier in the week. “She has the ability to train a lot because all summer long, our summer, she’s in New Zealand, and she’s training. And then during our winter, she’s racing. So she has this opportunity to get massive amounts of volume in, and she’s motivated.
“Maybe it’s motivation for me as well because sometimes I do take my foot off the gas. To see somebody young coming up with sort of this fresh mindset and just be like, yeah, I can do this, I don’t need to be intimidated. That’s a cool, refreshing outlook.”
Here’s a press release from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team:
Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team member Mikaela Shiffrin (Edwards, Colo.) clearly remembers the first time she beat her childhood idol Tina Maze and experienced the exhilarating feeling that she had finally arrived as a top competitor on the World Cup circuit.
On a sun-splashed day high in the Austrian Alps on the mighty and menacing Rettenbach Glacier in Sölden, Austria, New Zealand’s 17-year-old sensation Alice Robinson edged Shiffrin, the defending overall World Cup champion, by just 0.06 seconds to claim her first-ever World Cup win. Her giant slalom victory over two highly-accomplished athletes clearly states her arrival on the FIS Ski World Cup circuit. Sixty-time World Cup winner and two-time Olympic gold medalist Shiffrin was second, followed by France’s Tessa Worley, a 13-time World Cup winner and three-time World Champion, in third.
When told that Alice mentioned Mikaela as one of her ski idols growing up and asked if she remembers what that felt like, Mikaela said, “Well, yeah – of course, I remember. That was Tina Maze for me.” “My first victory was at Are (Sweden), and Tina was third. I remember this feeling like it was yesterday. It was so special to feel like I didn’t have anything to lose and my entire career was ahead of me. Just being able to ski with no expectations, and how freeing that felt. I can see that in Alice’s skiing. Of course, she’s aggressive, but she takes risks and just skis so well. This nothing-to-lose style is great to watch and for me it’s like taking a trip back in time. It’s really exciting to watch her, and it’s fun to remember what that felt like for me, too.”
While finishing second in the opening race of the season, especially coming off a 17-victory run on the World Cup circuit season last year, may seem like a step back for Shiffrin, it was quite the opposite as it brings another new challenger to the circuit and ignites the fire for the long season ahead.
“It always stings a little bit…you’re like ‘awe man I wish it was enough!’ But if it’s not enough, it’s not enough, and Alice was also skiing really, really well, and it’s super cool to watch her and I think it’s super cool for everybody,” Mikaela said. “So in a way, it’s motivation, nobody wants to be in second place, everybody wants to win! So I’m just going to take the positives from the day and take the motivation too!”
In addition to Shiffrin, four Americans started Saturday’s opening GS, including Nina O’Brien (San Francisco, Calif.), who finished 21st to post a career-best World Cup result.
“I’m definitely happy with today, it’s a good start to the season,” Nina said. “I feel like my training has been going well, so I’m happy to see that it came out on race day as well. I think that myself, and all the girls on our team, have more to show too.”
AJ Hurt (Squaw Valley, Calif.) was 41st, and Keely Cashman (Strawberry, Calif.) was 52nd. Former University of Denver skier Storm Klomhaus (Boulder, Colo.) started her first World Cup did not finish the first run.
Up next, the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team members return to Colorado for their final training camp of the season ahead of the next World Cup, a slalom event in Levi, Finland, Nov. 23.
“Now it’s time for some slalom! Gotta get down to business,” Mikaela said.
Women’s giant slalom
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