Brava Italia! And Whither the U.S. Ski Team?

Italians took the top two spots in today’s giant slalom race at the HomeLight Killington World Cup, with Mikaela Shiffrin in third.

Winds forced officials to shorten the course for the second run but that didn’t change anything for Marta Bassino. The former junior world champion held the lead she built after the first run to finish 0.26 seconds ahead of teammate Federica Brignone and 0.29 seconds ahead of Mikaela Shiffrin. Italian flags waved as Governor Phil Scott presented awards at the podium.

“I’m happy for Marta and her first World Cup win,” Shiffrin said after. She appeared relaxed and happy, far more so than during her first Killington World Cup four years ago. “There’s such a difference from four years ago. I felt so much pressure then. I’m sort of from the East Coast and I thought I had the weight of the world on my shoulders and I couldn’t let people down,” Shiffrin recalled at the post-race press conference. “But then I think I got a message from a fan on Instagram saying, ‘we just want you to know that we can see you’re under a lot of pressure and we’re just so happy you’re here and the World Cup is at Killington and no matter what, we’re supporting you.’ And that’s when I realized, nobody really cares!”

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While six American women entered the giant slalom race, only Nina O’Brien made it to a second run and ended up 28th overall. Paula Moltzan, who was scheduled to race, sat out to prepare for tomorrow’s slalom.

Five Italian women made the top 30, “We’re like a family,” said Bassino after the race. When asked what the U.S. could do to broaden the depth of the American team, Shiffrin, was optimistic. “I think we’re making the right steps to get there. We had six starters today. We’re seeing Nina (O’Brien) and Paula (Moltzan) start to finish in the top 20. We’re still a ways off from an Olympic year but I had this dream that we’ll see the Tech Team sweep the podium.”

Tiger Shaw, the president of US Skiing has that same dream, as does Alpine Head Coach Jesse Hunt. Hunt, who grew up in Vermont racing against Shaw at the Mount Mansfield Ski Club, and returned as head coach in spring of 2018 after a nine-year run as general manager of Park City Ski and Snowboard. During Hunt’s previous tenure as Alpine Head Coach, the U.S. Ski Team saw some of its best results in history, winning four FIS Overall World Cup titles, 12 Olympic medals and 18 World Championship medals. Another MMSC veteran and former Stowe native Chip Knight is the Alpine Development Director. “We have a lot of strong ex ski racers from New England leading the coaching team now,” noted Shaw between runs. In addition to those three, Shiffrin’s coach is Mike Day, a former coach at Green Mountain Valley School in Waitsfield.

“We’ve shifted our approach to development a bit now,” says Shaw. “We did what I think a lot of other teams have been doing and looked at data and the results from the past 15 years or so. It’s more like baseball now or “Moneyball” we know exactly what the criteria are to qualify for the team and most of our racers fit that profile. Of course, there may always be outliers, but right now, everyone is fitting the profile.”

Tomorrow’s race, a slalom, should see  UVM racer Paula Moltzan starting as well and another chance for the American women to show their depth of talent.

 

Photos by Brooks Curran

 

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.

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