SOELDEN, Austria — Viktoria Rebensburg took the season-opening women’s World Cup race on Saturday for her 14th career victory, seven years after winning her maiden giant slalom on the same hill.

The 2010 gold medalist got the perfect start into the 2018 Olympics season, beating last year’s World Cup discipline champion Tessa Worley of France in front of 14,500 spectators on the Rettenbach glacier.

“It’s a great result and it makes me really happy,” Rebensburg said. “I like steep pitches and Soelden certainly has that.”

Ranked third after the opening run, Rebensburg used a strong finish to her final run to edge Worley by 0.14 seconds. First-run leader Manuela Moelgg of Italy finished third, 0.53 behind.

Overall champion Mikaela Shiffrin, who was second after the opening leg, had a tough run and the American nearly skied out before finishing in fifth, 0.74 off Rebensburg’s winning time.

Shiffrin’s American teammate Lindsey Vonn, who only decided a week ago that she was going to race, failed to qualify for the final run.

Last year’s winner Lara Gut of Switzerland, who made an early comeback from knee injury, was among three racers out of the top seven who failed to finish. Italians Marta Bassino and Sofia Goggia also skied out.

“The second run was a wild ride. I never thought that this would be the result,” Rebensburg said.

Rebensburg won the Olympic GS title in Vancouver, even before triumphing in a World Cup race of that discipline. However, she quickly developed into a specialist and has meanwhile racked up 12 wins in GS while earning back-to-back season’s titles in 2011 and 2012.

Shiffrin, who celebrated her first GS win here three years ago, was disappointed after a second run in which she needed to regain her balance after almost being thrown off course by a bump.

“I have been training really well but I was a bit stiff today,” the American said. “I needed to be really loose in the second run when I skied through some of the bumps.”

Shiffrin trailed Italian veteran Moelgg by 0.12 after the opening leg after a strong finish to a rather conservative run.

“I know I can ski cleaner than that and be more simple,” she said. “I was excited for that run, I didn’t feel extremely nervous. I sometimes did too much almost, so I can just let my skis go a little bit more. I just can relax more and let the good skiing come out.”

Due to strong winds in the upper part of the course, organizers lowered the start shortly before the race.

“To be honest, I really didn’t notice (the wind) that much,” Shiffrin said.

The conditions hampered Vonn in her first GS in nearly two years. The four-time overall champion struggled for rhythm throughout her run and came 3.31 off the pace in 34th.

“It’s an awkward set. It had rhythm for three gates, than it was a kind of quick chicane to three gates,” Vonn said. “I just didn’t push myself enough. I was kind of too conservative where I could have let it go. But it was nice to get started.”

Vonn opted to start in the season-opening race although giant slalom is not a main discipline for her anymore.

Despite lacking sufficient GS training days, she expected to score points in order to improve her starting position for the Olympic GS in Pyeongchang in February.

“Obviously I wanted to do better today, but I skied solid and I am healthy,” Vonn said. “I was wishing to get some points but that’s life.”

The men’s World Cup is set to start Sunday with a GS on the same hill.

Author photo
ERIC WILLEMSEN
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