Mikaela Shriffrin made it three wins on the World Cup with victory in the Flachau Night Slalom. The 17 year old American produced one of the all time great sections on the second run to give the final runner down the course plenty to think about. Shiffrin had been second after the first run to Maria Hoefl-Riesch and the German was building a huge lead before she straddled just gates from home. Frida Hansdotter took second with tanja Poutiainen taking third.
Flachau is fast creating a name for itself as one of the great night races on the Women’s tour. Positioned in the middle of January, it starts the build up before the major championships in February. With the racers able to see most of the course, this makes it a perfect race for the tourists in the area. With the roles and the varied pitches, this has something for everyone! Even the notorious vocal Austrian crowd had plenty to cheer as despite there being no Marlies Schild, her little sister Bernadette produced a great first run to jump into the top ten. With Kathrin Zettel crashing out on the first run, this was just the thing they needed.
Shiffrin had got the race off to a great start in posting a blistering first run yet she was out done by the defending Slalom Champion from the Olympics in Vancouver. Hoefl-Riesch has not quite had the season she would of hoped for, she has been eclipsed by the form of Tina Maze, yet this was run that proved she is still a force to be reckoned with. So after the first run it was the German leading with Shiffrin in second over half a second back and Christina Geiger 0.81 back in third. Frida Hansdotter was over a second back in fourth just ahead of Tanja Poutiainen. Tina Maze was down in eighth.
Sticks breaking seemed to be the theme for the second run as a number of racers including Michaela Kirchgasser lost sticks or they broke. Â Eight racers for one reason or another failed to finish the race from the second run.
With eight to go rising Swedish star, Anna Swenn Larssen grabbed the lead and it looked like she might do enough to make her first World Cup podium as she had the better of Tina Maze first and then Schild. Kirchgasser then got herself into a mess and crashed out. The Swedes had a nice little one two in the leaders enclosure at this stage with Maria Pietilae Holmner in second. Pietilae-Holmner had not been happy after her first run yet with her boyfriend, Hans Olsson watching in the finish, she managed to put in a better second run.
With five to go Swenn-Larssen was edged off the lead by her fellow Scandinavian Tanja Poutiainen by a mere two hundredths of a second. Hansdotter then went faster and with three to go it was anyones guess as to how the race would unfold.
First up was Geiger yet she crashed out and then came the wonder run from Shiffrin. The top was clean and tidy, the middle was smooth and the bottom was immense. The 17 year old ripped the course apart, spat it out and in the finish she was almost a full second ahead of the rest of the field. Then came Hoefl-Riesch. Hoefl-Riesch is tall, strong and great across the board. Like Shiffrin she was good at the top, got faster in the middle and then disaster as her left ski flew up in the air – a tell tail sign that she had straddled a gate. Her incredulous look said it all as she stared down the course, hardly able to believe her misfortune.
In the finish Shiffrin had her skis held aloft hardly able to believe that this was her third win of her fledgling career. Not only is she the Snow Queen from Zagreb but she had now added the Snow Princess Title as well – this is the closest the Americans can get to Royalty perhaps but this was fantastic skiing and she now recognises that she is playing at the top table of Slalom ski racing.
After the race the young American was asked how she managed to keep going and get faster: looking directly at the questioner she compared to herself to a young three year old child who just keeps playing and playing all day long! “I guess it works,” she ended with! With a prize of â‚¬40,000 to take home plus a large trophy, Shiffrin also commented that she could now afford to pay her way through College!
The Flachau Slalom also saw the World Cup debut for Charlie Guest. This was all about experience for Guest and while the nerves were there in the lead up to the race, Guest had the worst possible start as her stick broke as she came out of the start gate. To ski any course with just one stick is hard enough but to have to race your opening World Cup Slalom race with just one stick made her job even harder. The result was not the important thing, the experience and seeing what the World Cup was all about, was the reason for her being there. Having just made her Europa Cup debut a five days prior, January has been a big wake up call for the British Ski Academy product.
After the race her coach, former Austrian team racer, Stefan Moser, commented that it “was nice to be here and see what is going on at the top table. It is great to see our young racers really working hard to achieve their goal.”
“This was a respectable performance and she did not give up,” explained Moser afterwards.
Alex Tilley will make her debut in the Slalom in Maribor later this month.
Read what Charlie Guest, Alex Tilley and Stefan Moser all thought of the World Cup (click here)