A Surprising Finish at Killington World Cup

With temperatures soaring well over freezing and the racecourse getting chopped into ruts and loose potatoes, Mikaela Shiffrin watched from the top of s Superstar on Sunday as 29 racers weaved down the slalom course on their second run of the Audi Heroic Killington World Cup presented by Stifel. At the bottom, the crowd roared as racers came across the finish line one by one, based on their finishes on the first run. Shiffrin, who had won the first run, would start last.

On Saturday, during the giant slalom races, a record 21,000 had watched as Shiffrin had finished 13th in the giant slalom race. That race went to Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Bahrami, with Italy’s Marta Bassino in second and Sweden’s Sarah Hector taking third.

But slalom is Shiffrin’s forte and already this season she has won the two opening World Cup slalom races in Levi, Finland, giving her a solid lead in the World Cup standings.

On the first run at Killington on Sunday’s slalom race, she flashed to a 0.21 second lead over Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener and 0.22 ahead of Katherina Liensberger of Austria. Shiffrin was gunning for her sixth slalom victory at Killington and what could be the 27-year-old’s 50th career World Cup slalom win.

On the second run, as it came down to the last five starters it looked as if Shiffrin’s chances were good. Petra Vhlova, the overall 2021 World Cup winner from Slovakia, starting in fifth, skied a conservative run that put her just out of running for a medal with a time of 1:43:41. Liensberger skied out of the course. Then it came down to three skiers: Truppe, Holdener and Anna Swenn Larson of Sweden.

Swenn Larson pushed it, putting herself in the lead position at the bottom. Truppe was close but could not catch her. Then came Holdener, the two-time World champion in combined and a five-time Olympic medalist. Neither Holdener nor Swenn Larson have been able to win the slalom, perennial bridesmaids to Shiffrin.

Today changed that. Holdener flashed the course, finishing with the exact same time to the hundredth of a second as Larson: both women posting a time of  1:42:97. Larson, who was sitting in the winner’s chair, gasped with amazement then started cheering for her competitor. Katharina Truppe came in at 1:43:19.

Then all eyes were on the slope where Shiffrin was carving through the first few gates, looking strong and steady. But perhaps too steady. “In some spots, I was a little off my timing, but I was pushing and giving it my best. Some spots I gave a little respect but those spots were no different for me than they were for Anna or Wendy,” Shiffrin said. “It was a pleasure to ski though, and Wendy and Anna got their first win –a tie!—it was a special day,” the American superstar said graciously as she was interviewed at the finish, still catching her breath. Shiffrin ended the day in fifth with a time of 1:43:56.

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.