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Mikaela Strikes Gold Again on That 'thar' Sun Valley Hill
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Monday, March 28, 2016
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY NILS RIBI

Mikaela Shiffrin likely would have been a millionaire had she come to the Wood River Valley in the late 1800s—she’s that good at mining gold.

The fastest women’s slalom skier in the world struck gold for the second time Sunday at Sun Valley as she edged out a hard charging Resi Stiegler for the national giant slalom title on a difficult Greyhawk course.

Shiffrin won two races during the U.S. Alpine National Championships this week at Sun Valley. But she came away with four gold medals, considering she won the U.S. National Champions Regional Cup in both disciplines, as well.

 “I always enjoy winning—it never gets old. I’ll take a few days to savor it. Then it’s back to the drawing board to see how I can get better, faster,” said Shiffrin, who used to turn down her parents’ invitation to go powder skiing so she could work on her pole plants.

The first woman on the course Sunday morning, Shiffrin made it look easy, alternately stretching her 5-foot-7 body out and then getting low--her butt just inches off the ground as she made her way through 50 gates placed from the top to the bottom of Greyhawk.

She looked perfectly fluid—a big contrast to those who threw their bodies around trying to get around the gates and to those who got bumped around in the “Hemingway rollers” where Hemingway turns onto Greyhawk.

Shiffrin won the slalom title by more than six seconds on Friday. But she didn’t have that kind of breathing room for the final race of the 2016 U.S. Alpine Championships that started Tuesday in Sun Valley.

She was .75 ahead of Stiegler, who has 21 World Cup top ten finishes, after the first run. Stiegler actually posted the fastest run by two-hundredth of a second in the second run. But that was .73 seconds too little by the time the two scores were added together.

Megan McJames finished third. Sarah Schleper, a veteran of 186 World Cup races with four podium finishes and one victory, was fourth.

“It was so fun. The snow was a little grippy, but I think they tilled the snow a little for the women so it was not as icy as it has been,” said Stiegler, daughter of the Austrian Olympian Pepi Stiegler, who won Olympic gold and bronze during the 1964 Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck.

Sara Schlepper finished her second race, a big grin on her face. The World Cup medalist raised her poles in the air and gave a shout out to Sun Valley.

“My legs felt like lead by the bottom—I wasn’t sure I could trust them. I was thinking: Should I make a turn or ski clean?” said Schlepper, who will now go home to Cabo San Lucas to spend the summer surfing big waves and to coach a young Mexican team she hopes to take to the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Three skiers who grew up racing for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation did well on the course. Erin Smith and Teagen Palmer just made it into the top 30 for the second round.

“I’ve never been so tired in my life!” Palmer said, breathlessly, after finishing twenty-fifth.

“I really didn’t ski very well, but I made it,” said Smith, who finished twenty-sixth. “This week showed me that I can hang with the good girls.”

Haley Cutler just missed the top-30 cut and so had the misfortune of skiing right behind Shiffrin as most eyes were turned on Shiffrin at the finish line. But she ended up skiing well enough to move up a couple places, finishing 29th.

Sydney Holdermann, a young skier at Mt. Ashland Ski Area, watched the race from scaffolding set up for Thursday’s NBC-TV filming. She held a poster cheering on the skiers that she had made at a Fast and Female event put on by U.S. Ski Team members for young girls.

She and her family came to Sun Valley from Medford, Ore. They attended every race and party  Sun Valley threw.

“We came for this—this and skiing Sun Valley,” said her father Jim Holdermann.

“The level of athletes surprised me—Mikaela beat the field by six seconds!” he added. “Certainly watching Mikaela was the highlight—her fluidness, grace, perfection is awe inspiring. And the races, the organization—everything has been a great experience from the snow conditions to the weather to the access to athletes to the friendly volunteers. And the great thing is we have another week of skiing here to practice what we learned watching the races!”

Shiffrin graciously posed for dozens of iPhone pictures and signed dozens more autographs on ball caps, ski parkas, even faces for the children who lined up along the fence in the race arena. The line for her hour-long autograph session at Brass Ranch on Saturday stretched across the River Run patio.

Sun Valley’s General Manager Tim Silva wasn’t surprised that  so many people came from out of town for the express purpose of getting Shiffrin’s autograph and to watch her race.

“She’s worth watching!” he said.

RESULTS OF WOMEN’S GIANT SLALOM

Mikaela Shiffrin 2:17.36

Resi Stiegler 2:18.09

Megan McJames 2:18.56

Teagen Palmer (25) 2:25.94

Erin Smith (26) 2:26.30

Haley Cutler (29) 2:28.36

Twenty of the original 72 starters did not finish the first run. Six more did not finish run 2.

COMING UP:

Look for the U.S. Alpine Championships back in Sun Valley in 2018. Expect the U.S. Ski Team to be bringing a bunch of heavy medals with them following the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

INSIDER’S SECRET:

Test your skills on the Greyhawk course that spit out so many of America’s best skiers during the past week. Sun Valley has groomed Greyhawk from top to bottom today! Expect the snow to be a little bluish, though, thanks to all the dye used to outline the ski course!

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