Shiffrin Misses the Killington GS Podium, But Leads Strong Effort by the U.S. Women

This article originally appeared on Ski Mag

The Heroic Killington Cup continues on Sunday Nov. 27 with a women's World Cup slalom. Tune in live on Outside Watch to see Mikaela Shiffrin go for her sixth consecutive Killington slalom victory. Get all the streaming details here.

Mikaela Shiffrin may not have had the best day ever at the 2022 Heroic Killington Cup. The 27-year-old ski racing icon finished 13th--her first time out of the top five in the Killington giant slalom and her toughest World Cup GS finish in three years.

But the U.S. team as a whole had a very good day.

On a surprisingly cold, windy day--so windy that race organizers lowered the start on Killington's Superstar trail--Shiffrin led three U.S. skiers into the top 30. Former University of Vermont skier Paula Moltzan finished 18th. Nina O'Brien, in her first race back since her horrific crash at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, came in 23rd. And University of Denver graduate Katie Hensien started the first run in 49th and scored her first World Cup GS points by finishing 27th.

"We've showed some [depth] in slalom, but GS is a totally different event," said Shiffrin after her second run. "All the women are doing such a good job to make their plans and execute good skiing, and I think everybody has a higher level in them than what they’ve shown today.

"But it’s the first GS of the season,” she continued, “and it’s a really great way to kick things off, and from here, try to step it up even more."

Only three nations had four or more skiers qualify for a second run: Austria, Switzerland, and the U.S.

At the front of the race, reigning Olympic super-G champion Lara Gut-Behrami from Switzerland won the Killington GS for the first time; her previous best result was 19th. Until this year, she had struggled to build speed in the middle, flatter part of the Killington GS course and was happy that she "was able to change that, even with the wind."

Lara Gut Behrami Killington GS
Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland on her way to her first GS victory at the Heroic Killington Cup Nov. 26, 2022 in Killington, Vermont. (Photo:Dustin Satloff // U.S. Ski and Snowboard)

"For once I was able to ski nice," she quipped.

Italy's Marta Bassino, who won the 2021 World Cup GS title and the 2019 Killington GS, moved from fifth to second place with a blistering second run, and Sweden's Sara Hector, the reigning Olympic GS champion, rounded out the podium.

With the cancellation of the women's GS in Solden a month ago, the Killington Cup was the first World Cup GS that the women had raced in months. Last week, they competed in two slaloms in Levi, Finland--races Shiffrin won. And that was part of the problem. In the past few weeks Shiffrin, who relies on feel and timing for her fast skiing, only trained GS twice.

"I can make much better turns than that," said Shiffrin after her first run in Killington. "But it’s also like we haven’t had a lot of practice doing it the last couple of weeks."

Watch: Mikaela Shiffrin analyzes her first run of the Killington GS

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In a short race made even shorter by the wind, "you have to be on every turn and you have to be pushing from the start, no mistakes," she added.

Still, the Killington crowd cheered for her, and she maintained her overall World Cup lead with 220 points, still 50 ahead of her slalom rival Petra Vlhova, who took fourth in the Killington GS.

The fans also cheered wildly for the other U.S. skiers and--frankly--everyone else, even the forerunners. Despite the cold, 21,000 fans showed up, which broke 2019’s record of 19,500, and they were joined by every Olympian within driving distance, who worked as gate judges. Shiffrin is the lead act, but the cast is large, and everyone puts on a show.

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For U.S. ski-racing fans, who for years collectively held their breath to see if anyone besides Shiffrin would qualify for the second run, we can now exhale. Today, Shiffrin shared the spotlight with teammates who could one day vie for the podium.

Moltzan, skiing her first giant slalom at Killington, has had top 10 World Cup slalom results and is starting to make inroads in GS. Like Shiffrin, Moltzan struggled with her timing after focusing on slalom recently, but she was happy to see a large crew of friends and family who trekked from Western Massachusetts and all parts of Vermont to watch her.

O'Brien's 23rd place was perhaps the most impressive of the U.S. skiers. Just a few months ago, she was uncertain when she would be able to race again after suffering a compound fracture in her lower left leg in the 2022 Olympic GS.

Asked during the summer if she thought that she would compete at Killington again--the place where she made her World Cup debut (2016) and then scored her first World Cup points (2018)--O'Brien said she "had a little part of [her] that was holding on to the hope through all the PT and workouts, it was like a secret goal, I wanted to be here.”

"Today’s a really big step forward," she added. "But like any racer, I always want more, and I know I can do more. So hopefully I get a chance to show that later."

With the Killington slalom on the schedule tomorrow, the limelight will be on Shiffrin again, but she is happy to share it.

"Over the years, we have always said that the U.S. Ski Team has a strong showing if I’m winning," she said the night before the Killington GS. "But what we have right now is a group of women who all have the chance to be top 15, top 10, make the podium. I’ve seen that speed over the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been pushed by that speed as well.”

"So it's been incredible to get those wins,” she continued, “but I am actually more excited about what we have as a group of athletes, and when we say the team has a strong showing, that it will truly be backed up by many athletes who are showing that they are the best in the world."

The Heroic Killington Cup continues on Sunday Nov. 27 with a women's World Cup slalom. Tune in live on Outside Watch to see Mikaela Shiffrin go for her sixth consecutive Killington slalom victory. Get all the streaming details here.

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