Mikaela Shiffrin competes during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Slalom on November 12, 2016 in Levi, Finland (Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images via U.S. Ski Team)
Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO) overcame Audi FIS Ski World Cup slalom opener nerves, skiing two clean and solid runs en route to her first World Cup victory of the 2017 season in Levi, Finland Saturday.
Shiffrin will wear the overall World Cup leader’s bib when she competes in giant slalom and slalom events Nov. 26-27 at Vermont’s Killington Resort. The event will mark the first time the World Cup Circuit has been held in the Northeast in 25 years.
Switzerland's Wendy Holdener grabbed second, .67 seconds out, while Slovakia's Petra Vlhova rounded out the podium in third, .75 seconds behind Shiffrin in Finland.
It was a beautiful, crisp day up in Lapland, with a picturesque sunrise and perfect rock-hard conditions on the race track. Starting lucky number seven, Shiffrin laid down a smoking first run, finishing .72 ahead of 2016 World Cup slalom title holder Frida Hansdotter and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener. The battle between Shiffrin and Hansdotter ended when Hansdotter straddled on the pitch second run and skied out. Shiffrin knifed the bulletproof pitch and maintained her lead all the way to the finish, earning herself another prize Lapland reindeer and a buddy for her 2013 prize reindeer Rudolph. His name? Sven.
Shiffrin channeled early race day nerves to work in her favor. "I didn't have many expectations. I was quite nervous this morning," recalled Shiffrin. "I just tried to put it aside, put my head away and just ski really hard. I made a few small mistakes—a couple things that hopefully the next race I can clean up a little bit. I know these other girls aren't going to wait around. They're trying to beat me, so I have to keep going."
Much like Soelden, Levi is a bit of an outlier race on the World Cup circuit—no one really knows where they are until it happens. Though Resi Stiegler (Jackson WY) typically struggles with losing time in the final split, she was able to make up some time at the bottom of her second run, skiing into a solid 16th place. Prior to the race, Stiegler she noted that she was still working on dialing in her skiing and body for the season, but she is relieved to have the first race in the books.
"First run I think I had some nerves," said Stiegler. "Then second run I was like, 'It's time to improve. Let's just ski better second run and not worry too much about the result today,' and it was better. There are still some things I need to work on, but I'm happier that I improved for that run. It's so beautiful here and it's nice to have some winter conditions finally. Everything feels really good. The snow was excellent—it's nice, hard snow—and a great atmosphere."
The women will head to Colorado for a training block before traveling to the highly anticipated Killington World Cup on November 26 for a giant slalom, followed by a slalom on November 27. It is Killington’s first time hosting a World Cup and the first time the east coast has hosted a World Cup since 1991.