O’Brien Takes Home Eighth National Title With Super-G Victory, Ross Takes Final Lap
Despite the fact that weather pushed the slalom portion of the U.S. Alpine Championships alpine combined to Wednesday, organizers were able to get off a successful super-G and Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team athlete Nina O’Brien walked away with the win, and her career-eighth national title on Tuesday.
Fresh off her career-best FIS Ski World Cup season, featuring five top-10 results in giant slalom and slalom, highlighted by a career-best ninth-place finish in a World Cup slalom in Semmering, Austria, and a top-10 result (and the second-fastest first run) in the giant slalom at World Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, O’Brien was a clear favorite across disciplines and kicked off her U.S. Alpine Championships week with a win in Tuesday’s super-G. This wasn’t the first national title she’s won in 2020-21 though, as she snagged the giant slalom national title in Solda, Italy in November.
Soft snow and warm temperatures made for challenging conditions once again, but the women made the best of it. Rounding out the overall podium was Westminster Ski Team and Norway’s Hannah Saethereng, nearly one second back (.99), with Team X Alpine’s Storm Klomhaus rounding out the podium in third, 1.13 seconds off O’Brien’s pace. On the junior podium, a pair of Canadians—Sarah Bennett and Kiara “Kiki” Aleksander—went 1-2, with Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team athlete Emma Resnick in third.
With a full World Cup tech season during 2020-21, O’Brien hasn’t been on her super-G boards since the last time she won the super-G national title—which was in 2019 at the U.S. Alpine Championships in Sugarloaf, Maine. Despite her super-G success in the U.S. Alpine Championships and her love for the discipline, she laughed when asked if she will be skiing more super-G in the future, perhaps even on the World Cup. “My (tech) coaches aren’t going to like that,” she giggled. “We’ll see...we’re building, step-by-step, working on tech first.”
She was smiling ear-to-ear as she talked about kicking off the week by winning her eighth national title. “I haven’t skied much super-G in the past...I guess since the last U.S. Nationals super-G that I raced,” she laughed. “I really haven’t trained much, so I didn’t have many expectations going into today other than I wanted to remind myself that I want to go fast in speed and not be afraid of the speed. So I was pretty happy to do that on my run. It was a little bit soft and sugary, but I felt super comfortable in the course and I could go for it and attack it...and it was pretty fun. It was nice to ski super-G again.”
In regards to being able to pull off this U.S. Alpine Championship event so late in the season amidst a season full of unknowns due to COVID-19, O’Brien reiterated the sentiments of gratitude that many of her teammates have shared. “It’s really nice to be able to pull off the event...I feel like all season everything was uncertain, and so to finish the World Cup season,” she said. “I was so glad we got that done, but to come home and race with everyone in the U.S. is also really special. So, thanks to Aspen for hosting us.”
O’Brien’s teammate AJ Hurt, who was also a favorite for the super-G, unfortunately, did not finish the U.S. Alpine Championship super-G but was victorious in the FIS super-G that followed.
Two-time Olympian and super-G World Cup podium finisher Laurenne Ross, who is fresh off her third national title with her downhill victory on Saturday, capped a storied 13-year career with one final victory lap prior to Tuesday’s super-G. Dressed in a black Spyder onesie with a blue sparkly tutu and a rainbow unicorn horn, Ross made her way down the track, stopping to hug and give coaches high-fives, followed by her teammate and friend Alice Merryweather with a GoPro to capture it all. At the bottom, Ross was greeted by recently retired teammate Alice McKennis, partner and teammate Tommy Ford, and her father Rob, with hugs. There was even a magical unicorn there in the finish who greeted her with flowers. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as she popped the champagne to celebrate her last lap.
Up next is the slalom portion of the alpine combined on Wednesday. Tuesday’s U.S. Alpine Championship super-G run will be paired with Wednesday’s U.S. Alpine Championship slalom run for the alpine combined national title.
2021 U.S. Alpine Championships at Aspen - Event Schedule
Wednesday, April 14, Alpine Combined National Championships (Slalom), Women
Thursday, April 15, Giant Slalom National Championships, Women
Friday, April 16, Slalom National Championships, Women
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