Mikaela Shiffrin records downhill breakthrough (video)
Mikaela Shiffrin didn’t plan to race the Olympic downhill. Maybe the plan will change.
The youngest Olympic slalom champion notched her first World Cup downhill podium in her third career World Cup downhill start in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.
Austrian Cornelia Huetter won, followed by Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, .09 back. Shiffrin trailed Huetter by three tenths in third place.
Lindsey Vonn, who has won a record 18 times at Lake Louise, was en route to bumping Shiffrin off the podium (and possibly winning) when she crashed seconds before the finish line (video here).
“I thought that I could be maybe, like, solidly top 10 or top five in downhill, but I wasn’t really expecting a podium,” Shiffrin said. “I think that would be really presumptuous.”
Downhill is Shiffrin’s least comfortable discipline and the opposite of her favored technical slalom. The U.S. is deep in the event, and Shiffrin has been hesitant to do more than dip her toes into the most dangerous of the Alpine disciplines.
She made her World Cup downhill debut last season in Lake Louise, finishing an impressive 13th and 18th in two races.
On Friday, Shiffrin was the 10th skier to start and crossed the finish line in the lead. She smiled and nodded emphatically. Weirather and Huetter followed with quicker times.
“I skied exactly how I thought that I could ski,” Shiffrin said. “Obviously, I have no control over the other girls, but I felt I was confident in my plan. I tried to stay in my tuck as much as I could. I tried to be soft on my edges. A couple of things that I know are fast in speed [events]. The rest will come with years [of experience].”
Shiffrin continued to show that she is a fast learner.
She made the podium in her fifth World Cup slalom start (2011) and second super combined start (winning a race last February).
Though Shiffrin memorably said in Sochi that she dreamed of winning five gold medals in 2018, that is an unreasonable expectation.
Shiffrin remains the world’s best slalom skier (though with a new rival) and ranked second in the giant slalom last season.
In five World Cup super-G starts, Shiffrin has finished in the top 10 once (a fourth place last season).
The super combined win last season came with the benefit of the first run being a super-G rather than the faster downhill that is typically used.
World Cup racing in Lake Louise continues with another downhill Saturday (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).
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