U.S. Ski Team alpine racer Mikaela Shiffrin, entering her fourth season on the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup circuit, wasted no time in collecting her first-ever World Cup giant slalom victory Saturday.
Olympic slalom champion Shiffrin, 19, of Eagle-Vail, Co., shared first place with reigning World Cup giant slalom and overall queen Anna Fenninger, 25, of Austria in the 2014-15 season opener at Soelden.
It was the 10th World Cup victory for Shiffrin, who won her previous nine in slalom and is the two-time defending World Cup slalom champion. Fenninger, in her ninth season, has nine victories, eight in GS.
After a slow start last winter, Fenninger won the final four GS events for a 26-point victory over Jessica Lindell-Vikarby of Sweden in the giant slalom discipline standings.
Shiffrin told the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) News Bureau, “It’s very helpful to know that I can win GS. I’ve thought it for so long and believed in myself, but today was the first day where between runs I was like, ‘Yeah, I really think I can do this and can get that top step.’ I really believed it.
“Right now I’m still working on GS, but I’ve come a long way so hopefully I can keep improving.”
The American technical ace finished seventh in the World Cup GS standings last winter, achieving her best GS finish in second place at Beaver Creek, Co. She was sixth in the Soelden GS last year.
First-run leader Shiffrin built a narrow .09-second margin over Fenninger, then came from behind in the second run after losing ground mid-course. Shiffrin scorched the bottom flats to tie Fenninger, who won the Olympic super giant slalom gold medal in 2014.
Shiffrin said, “It feels really good to share first place with Anna. She was so fast and so fluid and so much fun to watch that I think it probably shouldn’t have gone any other way.”
Shiffrin became the fourth American to win in Soelden since the World Cup opener began in 1993. Lindsey Vonn won in 2011. Ted Ligety won from 2011-13. And Bode Miller won in 2003 and 2004.
Julia Mancuso of Squaw Valley, Ca. shook off a 47th starting slot to move up dramatically, finishing 17th. The finish boosted her to 31st in the World Cup Start List as she seeks to regain a top seed position.
The women race again with the season-opening slalom at Levi, Finland Nov. 15. Aspen hosts the Nov. 29-30 giant slalom and slalom.
Hirscher blows past rivals in Soelden GS
Defending Audi FIS Alpine World Cup giant slalom champion Ted Ligety, 30, of Park City, Utah came up short in his bid to win the Soelden giant slalom for a fourth straight year.
On Sunday at Soelden, Ligety saw a growing lead evaporate with a mistake at the start of the challenge flats at the bottom of the course. He finished 10th, over three seconds back.
Ligety was locked in a battle with rival Marcel Hirscher of Austria, who took a .19 second lead over Ligety in the first run and went on to win by 1.58 seconds over Germany's Fritz Dopfer.
Three-time World Cup overall king Hirscher, 25, in his eighth World Cup season, captured his 24th victory and 10th in giant slalom.