Soelden, Austria, 23 October 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Mikaela Shiffrin claimed her 70th World Cup victory on Saturday when she prevailed in a thrilling giant slalom duel with Lara Gut-Behrami in the opening race of the Olympic alpine skiing season.
American Shiffrin, who is the 2018 Olympic champion in the discipline, clocked a combined total 2 minutes 7.22 seconds under sunny Austrian skies in Soelden.
World champion Gut-Behrami led Shiffrin two two-hundredth after the first run, and by one-hundredth at the final split but the Swiss eventually missed a first giant slalom World Cup win since Soelden 2016 by .14 of a second.
Defending overall World Cup champ Petra Vlhova of Slovakia completed the podium as a distant third, 1.30 back, up from sixth after the first run.
Giant slalom World Cup champ Marta Bassino, who had won last year in Soelden, skied out in the first run, and compatriot Federica Brignone, the 2020 overall World Cup champ, in the second.
Austrian Stephanie Brunner was third after the first run but faded to 17th with a poor second run.
Shiffrin got a first win on her own at the season-opener after sharing Soelden success in 2014 with Austrian Anna Fenninger.
Only compatriot Lindsey Vonn (82) and Swede Ingemar Stenmark (86) have won more World Cup races than Shiffrin who now has 13 giant slalom top spots from her 70 victories.
The top spot gave the three-time overall World Cup champ a perfect start into the season highlighted by the February 4-20 Beijing Olympics.
“Starting off the season strong is important. It was a pleasure to ski today,” Shiffrin said in the finish area interview, adding that “you have to push like hell” to win in Soelden.
Shiffrin was embraced at the finish area by her boyfriend Alexander Aamodt Kilde, a former overall World Cup champion from Norway.
Kilde will not start when the men have their season-oepning giant slalom at the same venue on Sunday. He is coming off a severe knee injury and plans to enter the season at the first speed races in late November.