Mikaela Shiffrin returns to World Cup circuit with giant slalom win in Lienz
After a surprising and disappointing 17th place finish at the last giant slalom in Courchevel, France, two Tuesdays ago (17 December), the current giant slalom Olympic champion opted to skip a downhill and combined stop of the circuit in nearby Val d'Isère (which ended up being cancelled anyway due to poor weather conditions).
Her defeat in Courchevel saw the victor, Italian Federica Brignone, overtake her in the giant slalom crystal globe race, although Shiffrin closed the gap to 21 points with her win today in Lienz.
Skiing fourth in her first run, Shiffrin was always faster than early leader Marta Bassino of Italy, clocking in quicker at each time check down the course.
The American seemed to find speed where others could not, finishing 0.61 seconds clear of Bassino, with Brignone (+0.74s) the only other skier to come within a second of Shiffrin.
That gave her the final starting position for the second and decisive run.
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Katharina Liensberger of Austria gave the home fans something to cheer about as her storming second run put her into the lead with six skiers to go.
Brignone, who started with a 0.83-second lead on Liensberger, kept losing time throughout the course and when she crossed the line eight hundredths behind Liensberger, Austria were guaranteed a home podium.
Bassino, who won the giant slalom in Killington at the end of November, then recovered after losing a chunk of time in the middle of her run to take the lead off Liensberger and set the target for Shiffrin.
But there were no scares for the American double Olympic champion, who was smooth down the slopes and kept her calm to come home 1.36 seconds ahead of the Italian for the comeback win.