Shiffrin defies the wind to win in Levi

Mikaela Shiffrin on her way to winning her fifth World Cup Slalom, in Levi. Copyright Zoom Agence

She may only be a teenager but Mikaela Shiffrin is now the third most successful winner in Slalom from America with her fifth World Cup win, her first in Levi. The young American took the lead on the first run and held on to win by just over a second from  … the defending champion from 2012, Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Tina Maze taking third ahead of the real star of the day, young Christina Ager from Austria. Ager was making her World Cup debut and started with bib 53 to surprise a lot of the top racers. Marie Michelle Gagnon added to the North American joy by taking fifth for the Canadian team.

Levi may be one of the lowest races in terms of altitude, the finish is barely just above sea level, 250m, but what it loses in height it makes up for in many other ways. Yes the winner received the 100 World Cup points and cash that comes with that, but Levi also gives the winner a six month old Reindeer. Shiffrin has already christened hers Rudolf! With Maria Hoefl-Riesch going for a third successive win in Levi, she had been mildly disappointed to get bib 14 at the draw, hoping that the luck would be with her for the race.

Shiffrin won the first run comfortably from Maze with Hoefl-Riesch and her young German teammate Marina Wallner. A lot of the early racers on the first run had to run the gauntlet with the weather as the wind would blow for some and not for others. As a result a lot of the experienced racers failed to make the second run (for full first run report click here).

For the second run, the weather calmed down and the lights came on. With such a short window of opportunity regarding natural daylight, the race was always going to be decided in the darkness and under the lights. With many of the higher start numbers skiing conservatively in looking to take the World Cup points at the expense of going all out for a better result, there were opportunities aplenty for the more established racers that had made the second run to move up. With 11 racers from outside the top thirty seeds starting the second run, this was a race full of if, buts and whatevers.

Shiffrin took the win in dominant fashion from Hoefl-Riesch with Tina Maze putting the doubters to bed with third place. Shiffrin now has five wins and four third places and this was her second one second plus win, the five wins have all come in the last eight World Cup Slaloms. She has yet to place second in a World Cup Slaloms.

Canadian Marie Michelle Gagnon, of Lac-Etchemin, Que., all but secured her spot on Canada’s team for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games with a 10th-place finish in last month’s giant slalom opener in Austria and the versatile 24-year-old followed that up with two determined, attacking runs Saturday amid strong winds and varying light to reinforce her position as one of the world’s best slalom skiers. After two races she is sixth in the overall ladies’ World Cup rankings.

For Alex Tilley it was her second World Cup race and as she posted on Facebook: “Well… Second World Cup… Second straddle! But it was an incredible experience. A little disappointed with the skiing on the pitch, normally steep and icy suits me better but as that overused saying goes, “that’s ski racing”. Hopefully next time is third time lucky.” Tilley next takes part in a Europa Cup doubleheader, Giant Slalom and Slalom, next week.

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