Posted on Mon, Nov 30, 2015
Since 1968 there have been 75 World Cup races on this old silver-mining mountain with a rich history of ski racing that goes back to 1939. Many of the greats of the sport have won here, including Franz Klammer, Ingemar Stenmark, Marc Girardelli and Alberto Tomba.
Before this weekend, only four Americans had won here — Billy Kidd, Phil Mahre, Tamara McKinney and Bill Johnson — but none since 1984 and never twice in two days. That changed Sunday when EagleVail's Mikaela Shiffrin captured her second straight slalom, winning both in dominating fashion on a course widely regarded as one of the most difficult on the women's circuit.
On Saturday she prevailed by a 3.07 seconds, a record margin for women's World Cup slalom. On Sunday she might have trumped that if not for a momentary bobble near the start of the second run, but still she overwhelmed the field by 2.65 seconds to claim her 17th World Cup victory at age 20.
"I really love how she makes it (look) so easy to ski," said Sweden's Frida Hansdotter, who finished second Sunday. "She's skiing so economic, like real easy."
Fellow Vail Valley resident Lindsey Vonn, who holds the women's record for World Cup wins (67), didn't claim her 17th World Cup victory until she was 24.
It was Shiffrin's fifth consecutive slalom win, including three at the end of last season, but her average margin of victory in the first three was 0.74 of a second. Here it was 2.86 seconds, a ridiculous margin in a sport where winners and losers are often separated by hundredths of seconds.
"Sometimes I'm surprised at the times, but that's how I'm skiing," Shiffrin said. "I think probably the other girls, maybe there are some things that were tricky for them these past two days. I think their level is probably higher than what they showed."
Hansdotter and Sarka Strachova of the Czech Republic were the only racers to finish closer than 3.4 seconds. Strachova was 2.9 seconds behind.
"She's so stable," Strachova said. "She's cool and she does every turn really exact. That's why she's so fast. We do too many mistakes, the others."
Shiffrin did have advantages here. She got to train on the slope a week before the races, which the Europeans didn't get to do, and she has great familiarity racing on Colorado snow, which is different from the conditions racers typically experience in Europe.
Shiffrin predicted her rivals won't take long to get over how they were humbled and will be more competitive in the next slalom, Dec. 13 in Are, Sweden.
"There are plenty of races left this season," Shiffrin said. "(Saturday and Sunday) were pretty incredible, definitely for me and for the U.S. Ski Team, but I don't expect (dominating wins) to happen in the next races."
Shiffrin said it's "a little bit scary" to think her slalom rivals have "a target painted on my back," even more than last year. She has won the World Cup season slalom title the past three seasons.
"Nobody likes to get beat by three seconds," Shiffrin said. "I would hate to be in that position. I remember being in Levi (Finland) last year, I was like two seconds out and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I'm so mad.' I'm sure they're probably (angry) too. It's going to make for an interesting rest of the season."
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