Mikaela Shiffrin’s on-again-off-again season is back to full-throttle this week as she kicks out the old with a trio of World Cup races starting with a giant slalom on Monday.
Shiffrin’s extended offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic and career-defining injury left some questioning whether she’d be in race shape for the early season. She opted to put a pause on her season for the Christmas Holiday after an emotional giant slalom win in Courchevel, France, on Dec. 14—her first time topping the podium since her father passed away unexpectedly on Feb. 2.
Upon the announcement of her return to the slopes last week for the final time of 2020, Shiffrin became the odds-on favorite for the giant slalom on Monday and a slalom on Tuesday in Semmering, Austria.
Another one of *those* days at @reiteralm …???
Now it’s off to the races?! Hup hup hup?#weareskiing pic.twitter.com/nUNBbojKOR
— Mikaela Shiffrin (@MikaelaShiffrin) December 27, 2020
And why not? Shiffrin (+250 on BetMGM) has won four of her last five starts in Semmering, and she’s two World Cup podium finishes shy of 100, a record within her reach this calendar year.
Heady expectations for the 25-year-old Colorado native, as her next World Cup victory (68) would put her ahead of No. recently retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher for third on the all-time list behind Sweden’s Michael Jordan Ingemar Stenmark (86) and American Lindsey Vonn (82).
Shiffrin Won Both Events in Semmering Four Years Ago this Week
The last time Shiffrin won back-to-back giant slalom events in the World Cup was exactly four years ago, when she won both events in Semmering, Dec. 27 and 28, 2016. This season, she has only participated in technical events finishing second and fifth in the slalom events in Levi and fourth and first in the giant slalom events in Courchevel.
Shiffrin can also extend an impressive early season for the U.S. Ski Team. Five alpine skiers, including Vermonter Ryan Cochran-Siegle, have made at least one podium, up from two throughout last season and one the season prior.
Overall World Cup Leader Vlhová May Stand in Shiffrin’s Way Monday
But the competitive field isn’t going to let Shiffrin cruise to victory in Austria. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhová (+600), the overall World Cup leader, finished on the podium in four of the last five World Cup giant slalom events, except the most recent giant slalom in Courchevel, where technical problems gave her a DNF.
Vlhová likes this hill as well. She won the last World Cup giant slalom event in Semmering on Dec. 28, 2018, for her first career giant slalom victory in the World Cup competition.
Italians and Young Kiwi Will Ski Fast in Austria
Italian technical wizard Marta Bassino (+350) has also jumped out to an incredible start to the season. She’s won two of the three giant slalom events in the World Cup so far, and DNF’d in Courchevel.
Look for Bassino to ski strong Monday, perhaps becoming the first Italian to win at least three giant slalom events in a single World Cup season since Denise Karbon did it in 2007-’08 (5).
It could be Italians one-two on the podium as Federica Brignone (+500), the current leader in the giant slalom World Cup standings. Though she’s top of the board overall, she’s yet to notch a victory. Brignone has a pair of seconds and a fifth-place finish in three giant slalom events this season.
Those seeking a long-shot play should pay attention to New Zealand’s Alice Robinson (+2500), who, along with Brignone, was one of only two female skiers with multiple giant slalom World Cup wins last season. At nineteen, Robinson can become the first woman to win three World Cup giant slalom events before turning 20 since Mateja Svet did it in 1988.
Americans can watch live Monday on NBC’s Peacock streaming Network.
Women’s giant slalom (Semmering, AUT) Run 1 4 a.m. ET Monday
Men’s Super-G (Bormio, ITA) 5:30 ET Monday
Women’s giant slalom Run 2 7 a.m. ET Monday