Mikaela Shiffrin finally conquers elusive Kronplatz giant slalom

SAN VIGILIO DI MAREBBE, Italy — Mikaela Shiffrin had this race specially marked on her calendar.

There are few courses the American skier has not been able to conquer in her record-breaking career. Yet a victory — or even a podium finish — had eluded her on the steep Erta slope at the Kronplatz resort.

So she came to San Vigilio over the Christmas holiday and did some free skiing on the Erta. The attention to detail paid off. She won the World Cup giant slalom here on Tuesday and banished poor memories.

“There aren’t too many races where I had such a struggle as here,” Shiffrin said. “And when I come to a race like this, I have to overcome that as well. It’s a little bit more doubt. Today, I was thinking, ‘The course looks amazing and I have no idea how I can do (it), but I know what I should do. So I’m going to try that and see.’”

Shiffrin often does not celebrate her victories, but she raised her arms emphatically to rejoice over this one. “When I came here, I was thinking, ‘Well, the last years didn’t go so well for me.’ I always struggled with this hill. But I was still excited to ski on it and to prove myself that I can ski it fast and make it to the finish.”

Having established a massive advantage (1.39 seconds) in the opening leg, Shiffrin finished 1.21 seconds ahead of Tessa Worley of France in perfect conditions to earn her 10th victory of the season.

Marta Bassino of Italy moved up from fourth after the first run to finish third, 1.57 back.

The overall World Cup leader and Olympic champion in giant slalom, Shiffrin is within striking distance of the record of 14 wins in a season set by Vreni Schneider in 1988-89. Lindsey Vonn is second on the list with 12 wins in 2011-12.

It was the 53rd win of Shiffrin’s career, and first in San Vigilio.

Shiffrin was fifth here in 2017 and had an uncharacteristic fall in the first run last year, producing the unusual sight of her falling on a slope that features a 61 percent gradient — one of the steepest tests on the women’s circuit.

Then she went out and produced a first run that “was maybe my best run in GS in a race that I ever did.

“But I even felt like, ‘OK, I can be more precise.’ So it was a good mind-set to go in the second run. I wasn’t trying to protect the win, I was trying to ski another run like I did in the first and maybe — in some terms — better. Both runs the whole day were really perfect.”

Shiffrin took the lead in the GS standings, moving 10 points ahead of Worley and 45 points ahead of previous leader Federica Brignone of Italy, who finished sixth.

In the overall standings, Shiffrin extended her whopping lead over Vlhova to a 496 points as she seeks a third straight title.

Nina O’Brien, Shiffrin’s teammate and a university student, finished 26th for her first career points in GS.

Andrew Dampf is an Associated Press writer.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Mikaela-Shiffrin-finally-conquers-elusive-13536666.php.

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