It was billed as the shoot out for biggest pay cheque of the winter in women’s Slalom and it delivered a stunning race in front of fourteen thousand one hundred enthusiastic ski racing fans. They wanted a Marlies Schild win … but went away content that the young rival had given the rest of the field a demonstration on slalom racing. Mikaela Shiffrin won the first run and came back to show that she can hold on to win as well. Frida Hansdotter placed second with her Swedish teammate Maria Pietilae-Holmner third.
Marlies Schild was the first to light up the night with what was thought to be an awesome first run before Frida Hansdotter matched it exactly. Shiffrin came down three runners later and just destroyed the rest of the field’s hopes. The young American was noticeably closer in her line than the rest of the field and this showed in her lead of nine tenths of a second over the rest of the field from the first run.
When the crowds returned for the second run, Schild had a deficit of 1.09 seconds to make up over her rival. The optimism of the Austrian crowd was willing her on. They had the faith, did she? You can never count out Schild: It is why she has 35 World Cup Slalom wins. Schild started her second run with great determination and had the crowd willing her on. Half way down, disaster as she slide wide and her challenge was over. Schild continued to the end but her time would not be challenging for the win. With four racers left, Austrian honour was left with Michaela Kirchgasser – but could Maria Pietilae-Holmner hold on to the lead?
The answer to that question is no. Frida Hansdotter immediately bettered the time of her compatriot Pietilae-Holmner and the Swedes had a one two with two to go.
Maria Hoefl-Riesch is one of the few racers that is at the business end of races in all five disciplines. With few of her rival in the race for the Overall racing Slalom, this is a race where she can pick up valuable points in the race for the Overall. Â While podium places are always great to reach, Hoefl-Riesch has been in a position of power in recent races and crashed out. Points mean prizes and DNF’s bring nothing. The talented German allrounder was tempered in her approach to the second run and was looking to extend her lead in the Overall. The Overall is not won on one race but it can certainly be lost.
Hoelf-Riesch went into third place and then had the agony of waiting to see how Shiffrin would cope with the course. The American held a lead in the start gate of 1.09 seconds over Hansdotter. Many racers struggle with the pressure of large leads and can tend to back off too much, case in point being Niki Hosp in the Super Combined in Altenmarkt last weekend. Shiffrin made a few mistakes on her second run but rode the storm and crossed the line with a lead slightly reduced but still healthy, 0.83 seconds.
Talking after the race, Shiffrin was aware that her lead was big yet explained “Something can always happen, I learned that in Lenzerheide. nine tenths can go away really fast.” Shiffrin added “I felt that I did my best skiing on the first run. I am feeling more at home in the races.”
With seven Swedes making the cut in the thirty woman second run field, more than the Austrians, the Swedish coaches will have a tough call saying who goes to Sochi. This was the eighth time that Hansdotter has been second in a World Cup race yet she coyly explained that maybe Sochi will be the day that she scores her first win! “I am skiing really good and satisfied with my skiing. It is starting to be where I want it to be.”
With the Olympics getting ever closer Shiffrin and Schild look to be the favourites but with the World Cup shackles off for Hoefl-Riesch, do not count her out. The World Cup weekend in Garmisch has been cancelled due to lack of snow and Maribor is also looking bleak. Rest time will be greatly appreciated by all. There is also a certain Tina Maze who could pop up back into contention if her new coach, Mauro Pini, can pull things together.
Charlie Guest failed to finish but was on a much improved run according to her coach Stefan Moser. Guest had been struggling in training Moser explained but he was pleased with the improved performance his young charge put in. With her FIS points lower and her world ranking vastly improved since she made her World Cup debut last year in this race, Moser was more pleased than disappointed with her DNF. The road is long and improvements are being made all the time both coach and racer feel.
Mikaela Shiffrin defends her title as the Snow Princess!