Ski power couple Shiffrin, Kilde shine at World Cup Finals

Mar 15, 2022, 9:01 PM | Updated: Mar 16, 2022, 9:13 am
United States' Mikaela Shiffrin, left, hugs Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde as they stand in the f...

United States' Mikaela Shiffrin, left, hugs Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde as they stand in the finish area of an alpine ski, women's World Cup Finals downhill, in Courchevel, France, Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

(AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

It was clear — crystal globe clear — that skiing’s power couple had a rewarding day in the French Alps.

Mikaela Shiffrin and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde excelled Wednesday in Courchevel in their first races of the World Cup Finals — the week when all the crystal globe trophies are awarded in men’s and women’s skiing.

They hugged, kissed and congratulated each other near the finish area after Shiffrin increased her lead in the overall standings by winning the women’s downhill.

“Good job! What a day,” Kilde said to his girlfriend after the American’s surprising victory in the speed event.

By earning 100 World Cup points, while closest rival Petra Vlhová failed to score in 16th place, three-time overall champion Shiffrin turned an expected duel into a contest she can clinch on Thursday.

“It was incredible, how she raced was perfect,” Kilde told Austrian broadcaster ORF. “Together, this was a cool and incredible performance from both of us.”

Maybe Shiffrin was inspired by her boyfriend’s crystal globe-winning success just an hour earlier on the same Eclipse course.

Kilde started the last men’s downhill of the season with a mere 23-point lead over Olympic downhill champion Beat Feuz in the discipline standings. It held up, barely. Kilde finished fourth, one spot behind Feuz.

Coupling the men’s and women’s World Cup circuits for the season-ending races in France seemed to work for Shiffrin and Kilde, who trained on the same course since Monday.

“To be able to talk about that and discuss it, is incredibly helpful for me to improve on my downhill,” said Shiffrin, who struggled at the Beijing Olympics and left China without a medal. “But it’s also special to be able to share that.”

The downhill race was not expected to be decisive in the overall race. Shiffrin had started only two World Cup downhills this season — none since December — and a best finish of 26th had earned her only five of the 1,245 points she had amassed before Wednesday.

Vlhová also is a slalom specialist and occasional downhill racer, with only 22 of her 1,189 points gained in the speed discipline. The defending champion from Slovakia did not add to her tally because only the top 15 finishers score at finals week.

Suddenly, Shiffrin’s 74th career World Cup win — and only her third in downhill — gave her a 156-point lead going into the super-G on Thursday.

“I’m happy to have a little bit more of a lead but it’s not even close to over,” Shiffrin said.

Still, a top-four finish on Thursday could be enough in a discipline where she is a former world champion and Vlhová has only a single podium place in her career. A lead of more than 200 points would be uncatchable before the slalom and giant slalom over the weekend.

The men’s overall title was essentially settled last weekend but Marco Odermatt made his victory over Kilde, the 2020 champion, mathematically certain on Wednesday. Odermatt placed second, 0.34 behind winner Vincent Kriechmayr, to pad his lead even further beyond the 300-point mark with three races left.

It was academic because neither Odermatt nor Kilde skis in slalom, the event that will finish the season on Sunday when the 24-year-old Swiss standout will collect his first giant crystal globe.

Kilde was presented with his first small crystal trophy for downhill in a slew of podium ceremonies after Shiffrin’s race. He will get a second Thursday as the season-long super-G champion.

Sofia Goggia collected the women’s downhill trophy, the third of her career, despite placing 12th. She raced after her closest rival, Olympic champion Corinne Suter, failed to post a fast time and ended 19th.

Shiffrin ultimately finished 0.10 ahead of Christine Scheyer and Joana Haehlen, who tied for second place.

In the overall picture, Shiffrin’s margin of victory was much bigger.

___

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Ski power couple Shiffrin, Kilde shine at World Cup Finals