Talk about a photo finish.
Italy’s Federica Brignone and Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova tied — down to the hundredth of a second — during Saturday’s World Cup giant slalom in Sestriere, Italy, with Mikaela Shiffrin 1-hundredth of a second behind in third place.
One would say Brignone and Vlhova beat Shiffrin by a nose, but even the average, non-Pinocchio-like nose might be too much of a difference.
It’s the 16th time that the women’s World Cup has had a tie for first and it’s not an unfamiliar position for Shiffrin. She and Vlhova were deadlocked on the top step during last year’s Maribor, Slovenia, giant slalom on Feb. 1. The previous occasion before that was Soelden on Oct. 24, 2015, also a GS, and it was Shiffrin and Anna (nee Fenninger) Veith.
“I think the level of GS is really high and today it was super cool to see so many girls going just really aggressive, just really good skiing,” Shiffrin said via FIS Soundcloud. “The surface, like Petra said, it was amazing preparation and it was really good for GS, so everyone was really going for it. It was motivating to see, but it was also not an easy race. In the end, it was 1-hundredth and third, but that’s how it goes sometimes.”
As for the third-place finisher being 1-hundredth of a second behind double winners, well, the most obvious example of such zaniness was the 1999 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships men’s super-G at Beaver Creek. Norway’s Lasse Kjus and Austria’s Hermann Maier tied with Austria’s Hans Knauss 0.01 seconds back.
A different year
While Shiffrin acknowledged that in the past she’s been on the right side of a 1-hundredths margin, Saturday may have been symbolic of the way the 2019-20 season has been going for her — still spectacular, but not as insanely successful as 2018-19.
Shiffrin still has a sizeable lead in the overall race, 946-713, over Vlhova. In 15 starts, Shiffrin’s won four times, been on the podium 11 times and in the top 10 in 13 of those outings. That is phenomenal by any measure, except when comparing it to last season, which is unrealistic.
“I said this almost every single race last year that it’s not easy,” Shiffrin said on Soundcloud. “It’s not easy to win and you can ask (Federica) and Petra from today. It wasn’t like they skied down and had a Sunday drive and then won the race. They were both skiing hard, really well.”
Brignone appears to be the skier to beat in the giant slalom this year. The Italian leads with 375 points, ahead of Shiffrin (314) and Italy’s Marta Bassino. What’s more, in five giant slaloms this season, five different racers have won GS races this year on the World Cup — New Zealand’s Alice Robinson, Bassino, Brignone, Shiffrin and Vlhova.
Last season, Shiffrin went 4-for-8 in GS races and earned 615 of 800 points possible in the discipline.
“Everybody’s motivated. Everybody wants to win,” Shiffrin said. “The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, ‘Are you unbeatable?’ I feel like we’re all racing and it’s just normal now.”
The World Cup continues today with a parallel slalom in Sestriere.