Two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion Mikaela Shiffrin reminded everyone that she’s not just one of the best technical skiers in the world, with a massive victory in Wednesday’s downhill to open FIS Ski World Cup Finals in Courchevel/Meribel, France.
It was a tight and exciting downhill race at the site of the 2023 World Championships on a new track for everyone, L'Eclipse, at Courchevel. The coveted leaderboard saw a lot of faces, with Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecka setting the pace and hanging on until Swiss Joana Haehlen took over. From there, Austria’s Christine Scheyer came down tied with Haehlen. Though she was running bib 21 with only two downhill World Cups under her belt this season—in which she placed 26th and 38th, at Lake Louise, Canada—Shiffrin had confidence from her fast downhill training runs and took that confidence into race day. Shiffrin came down in first by .10 seconds to push Haehlen and Scheyer into second. Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin finished fourth, a mere .14 off Shiffrin’s pace.
The victory is Shiffrin’s 74th career victory and third downhill victory. The last time Shiffrin was on top of the downhill podium—or a speed podium of any kind—was on January 24, 2020, in Bankso, Bulgaria. Though she is the only athlete in history to win in all six World Cup disciplines, Shiffrin still doesn’t consider herself a seasoned speed skier, yet her natural gift for speed is undeniable.
“I don’t really feel like I’m supposed to be winning downhills,” she reflected following her victory. She continued, “Actually, I feel like I’m supposed to not be winning downhills, so it worked out amazing today, and I think I did a really good job with my coaches and the whole team here, they’re all here and fully committed to helping me learn this track and execute it the best possible way…and giving me exactly what I needed to ski the most confident. Even then, I’m not a downhill skier right now. I have great pieces, but it takes a lot of thought, a lot of work, a lot of effort…some of the things that come naturally to other women are not coming naturally to me. So I have to remind myself of little things that no one else is having to think about.”
With just a handful of downhill training days under her belt this season, Shiffrin was just looking for some points. “For me, I was thinking if I could be top 10 or top five that would be great…but to actually win the race is above my expectations,” she said.
Shiffrin's boyfriend, Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, put down an inspiring performance for Shiffrin on Wednesday to secure the downhill globe, and he and Shiffrin spent significant time talking about L'Eclipse and their game plan heading into Wednesday. “He’s skiing the course, so obviously he knows how it’s feeling…how the surface feels, and we’re talking about skiing a lot, so it’s really pretty easy for me to understand his points," Shiffrin shared. "From the first training, he said, ‘be smart in these key sections and then just good turns.’ It was just simple and clear. And then I felt very comfortable with where I was going on the track all of the time, so then I felt like I could really push and ski with good intention and timing. It worked perfectly. I love talking about skiing with Aleks. He’s an amazing skier, so I love to watch him and I love to talk about it with him.”
Shiffrin is happy to put the Olympics at Beijing 2022 in her rearview mirror and move towards the goal to win her fourth overall Crystal Globe. With the victory, Shiffrin walked away with 100 valuable points towards her overall effort. Meanwhile, rival Slovakian Petra Vlhova finished 16th and therefore outside of the points, as the top 15 athletes at World Cup Finals score points. She now has a 156-point lead over Vlhova going into the rest of the series.
In the women's downhill globe race, Italy’s Sofia Goggia secured the title with her 12th place finish, as Switzerland’s Corinne Suter struggled and finished outside of the points, in 19th place. Goggia finished the season with 504 points to Suter’s 407 points to take home the discipline globe for the second-straight year and third time in her career.
Olympic silver medalist Ryan Cochran-Siegle led the Americans in eighth place on the men's side, with Travis Ganong in 10th and Bryce Bennett finishing 20th. In the downhill season standings, Cochran-Siegle ended up 10th in his comeback season, followed by Ganong in 11th and Bennett in 12th. This is Cochran-Siegle’s career-best season ranking in downhill.
"It’s great to finish within the top 10 considering I was coming back from an injury and also adjusting to the new equipment," Cochran-Siegle said. "That being said, I believe there is still more to be had and that I have a lot to work on to show my best skiing every race. This is certainly a good place to be heading into the offseason and starting preparations for next year, but I really need to stay focused and keep working hard if I want to continue moving up the ranks. I’m hoping this will take some of the pressure off for tomorrow, not really having to worry about results or standings and instead being able to go out and race. I think in order to do well tomorrow I just need to ski with confidence and put it on the line to finish the season strong!"
In the tight race for the men’s downhill globe, Aamodt Kilde snuck past Switzerland’s Beat Feuz with 620 points to Feuz’s 607, spoiling the party and Feuz’s goal to get five-straight downhill globes. Aamodt Kilde also earned the super-G discipline globe this season. With his second-place finish on Wednesday, Swiss Marco Odermatt clinched the overall Crystal Globe over Aamodt Kilde.
Up next for the men and women is super-G on Thursday. Cochran-Siegle, Ganong, and Shiffrin have qualified in super-G and will represent the U.S. Ski Team.
HOW TO WATCH
*All times EDT.
Thursday, March 17, 2022
5:00 a.m. FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, Women’s super-G, Courchevel, France, Streaming Peacock
6:30 a.m. FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, Men’s super-G, Courchevel, France, Streaming Peacock
Friday, March 18, 2022
7:00 a.m. FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, Mixed Team Parallel Slalom, Courchevel, France, Streaming Peacock
Saturday, March 19, 2022
4:00 a.m. FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) - Courchevel, France, Streaming Ski and Snowboard Live, Peacock
5:30 a.m. FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, Women’s Slalom (Run 1) - Courchevel, France, Streaming Ski and Snowboard Live, Peacock
7:00 a.m. FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) - Courchevel, France, Streaming Ski and Snowboard Live, Peacock
8:30 a.m. FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, Women’s Slalom (Run 2) - Courchevel, France, Streaming Ski and Snowboard Live, Peacock
Sunday, March 20, 2022
4:00 a.m. FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) - Courchevel, France, Streaming Ski and Snowboard Live, Peacock
5:30 a.m. FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, Men’s Slalom (Run 1) - Courchevel, France, Streaming Ski and Snowboard Live, Peacock
7:00 a.m. FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) - Courchevel, France, Streaming Ski and Snowboard Live, Peacock
8:30 a.m. FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup, Men’s Slalom (Run 2) - Courchevel, France, Streaming Ski and Snowboard Live, Peacock
Sport-specific broadcast and streaming schedules are available below:
Broadcast and streaming schedules are updated on a daily basis throughout the season.