Shiffrin dominates competition to win World Cup slalom at Killington
KILLINGTON, Vt. — After her third-place finish in Saturday's Giant Slalom run at the Homelight Killington Cup, Mikaela Shiffrin was asked what her favorite skiing discipline was.
While the 24-year-old American dynamo deflected the "favorite" question, she did call Slalom her baby.
On Sunday, back up on the Beast of the East, that toddler turned four.
Shiffrin cranked out a pair of runs that for any other skier on the planet would be incredible, but for her have become the standard. Her combined time of 1 minute, 50.45 seconds beat the field by more than two full seconds, delivering Shiffrin a fourth consecutive World Cup Slalom victory in Vermont. The Killington Cup has been an event since 2016, and each year, Shiffrin has taken the top prize in Slalom.
"It's really so fun to compete in front of a crowd like here. This crowd is so special to me, it's such a special atmosphere," said Shiffrin. "I could hear them today, and I kept thinking, 'Keep fighting to get down there, to make it to the finish. Keep pushing because these guys are excited to see it.' They really carried me down the hill."
And while Shiffrin said this one felt truly no different than the second or third in a row had, it came with immense emotional weight.
A few weeks prior to the 2019 Killington Cup, Shiffrin's grandmother, Pauline Condron, a longtime resident of Lanesborough, passed away.
"She's been on my mind I think every race I've ever skied, so this was no different. I am normally pretty good at compartmentalizing, and today was similar. I didn't want to feel like I was racing for her, but in a way I'm always racing for her," said Shiffrin. "She was such a big supporter, and my biggest inspiration. I didn't want to feel like my motivation for racing changed just because this tragic thing happened in our family."
Condron was a staple at Killington with her daughter, Eileen, Mikaela's mother and manager, who grew up two hours south in The Berkshires.
While Shiffrin tried to keep herself focused in on the run, there were, of course, more numbers to tally.
It was Shiffrin's 42nd World Cup Slalom win, and her 62nd overall first, tying her with Annemarie Moser-Pr ll of Austria for fourth all time. It was the sixth podium at this particular stop for the Queen of Killington.
Slovakia's Petra Vlhova placed second, 2.29 seconds behind Shiffrin, with crowd-favorite Anna Swenn Larsson of Sweden in third, 2.73 seconds back.
Vlhova has become Shiffrin's most competitive rival in Slalom, finishing second to her, 1160-877, for last season's World Cup globe.
"She pushes me. She's really strong here, four times in a row. She feels it while she's at home," said Vlhova. "Today went like this, but we have a lot of races ahead. So we'll see what's going on.
"I'm really happy that she's skiing so fast, because I want to catch her."
After Shiffrin was the third racer down the hill at the morning session, though, it seemed to be a race for second place.
By comparison, last winter, Vlhova was the runner-up as well, but by a mere .57 seconds.
Shiffrin laid down Run 1's top time of 51.98 seconds, with Vlhova's 53.11 the closest, more than a full second behind. However, on a day that saw 16 racers unable to finish — including four of the six Americans — in the morning, and another five DNF or gate disqualifications in the second run, just making it down Killington's icy, rutted pitch was no sure thing.
The conditions made Shiffrin's afternoon race all the more impressive. As the final skier of the day, there had been more than 90 runs down the Superstar trail before she lined up at the starting gate with it all on the line and 11,000 screaming fans at the finish line.
But Shiffrin didn't take the finale timidly, trying merely to preserve her lead and escape with a victory or podium spot. She delivered.
"The second run was super wild. I thought I was out of the course a few times, actually," said Shiffrin. "It was just a fight really, and I expected that. I knew Petra had a couple big mistakes in the first run and Wendy [Holdener]'s coach set the second run, so I was expecting them both to be really fast, so I just had to go for it."
The Swiss veteran Holdener was third after the opening run, but was knocked out of the second run immediately when her skis split the first pin.
At 58.47 seconds, Shiffrin's run was the fourth fastest of the second round. Fifth-place Nina Haver-Loeseth or Norway had the top time in 57.89, while Swenn Larsson used a 58.38 to rise from ninth after the morning to her spot on the championship podium
"It was super fun. It's great for us ski racers to have such a good audience," said Swenn Larsson of the Killington experience. "It's so fun, they're super loud and happy and really friendly."
After the race, all of the athletes had to hurry off the mountain due to the impending snow storm. For Shiffrin and many it was a plane to Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada for the coming week's Downhill and Super G competitions.
Following an abbreviated press conference, Shiffrin looked for her mom, Eileen, and they began making their way out of Vermont until next year.
Though Team Shiffrin was one member shy of its typical strength, it is clear Condron's fingerprints won't fade soon.
"There are some feelings there that I've kind of put in a box, away, so I can focus on racing," Shiffrin finished. "Some time I'm probably going to have to face that, but trying not to do that just yet. Right now I'm just trying to remember her in the best way that I possibly can, because she was absolutely just an angel on this Earth."
Mike Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.
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