SOLDEN (Austria) -- Mikaela Shiffrin received a friendly pat on her back from Petra Vlhova, and a long hug by Aleksander Aamodt Kilde in the finish zone as Mikaela's reward for winning the World Cup giant slalom.
Shiffrin demonstrated near perfect skiing on one the most difficult hills on the women’s circuit, earning her 70th career victory.
Lara Gut-Behrami from Switzerland, who is the current GS world champion, was unable to match the American Olympic champion's performance.
Shiffrin was.02 behind GutBehrami in the opening leg, but she ran a clean second leg to beat her Swiss rival by 0.14 in sunny conditions on Rettenbach glacier.
Shiffrin stated, "Starting off your season strong is important. So I am super happy." It's a pleasure to be able to ski today. They did an amazing job with the course preparation. This hill was so beautiful.
They finished ahead of all the other field members, with Petra Vlhova of Slovakia, the defending overall champion, finishing third by 1.30 seconds.
Shiffrin was the third skier to achieve the 70-win mark in World Cup history, following Ingemar Stenmark, Lindsey Vonn, and respectively, 86 and 82.2 wins.
Shiffrin replied, "I guess it is," when Shiffrin was asked if 70 was special to her. It is an amazing achievement and I am proud of it. It is amazing to be seventy, but the goal was to ski well today."
Shiffrin was able to do exactly that Saturday.
She started the race cleanly, then briefly shrugged her shoulders when she finished, but her time was easily maintained by other pre-race favorites.
Shiffrin was only beaten by Gut-Behrami who ran in the perfect sun on the Rettenbach glacier.
Gut-Behrami started faster and was.09 ahead in the first split, but she lost a fraction over Shiffrin at each check point.
It was a super smooth run. Shiffrin stated that she felt great in her skiing after the first run. "Lara is super on-point and maybe a bit more active.
In the second leg, the battle for victory took an interesting turn.
Shiffrin had put pressure on Gut Bahrami with the fastest second-run tun, but the Swiss skier was.10 behind at the first checkpoint. Shiffrin won the time when she entered the steep middle section and regained the lead with a lead of.24.
Gut-Behrami stated, "It doesn’t really matter whether it’s the first or the second." "It's good for me that the season starts like this, realizing that my skiing is fast."
The overall champion Swiss skier in 2016 was a Swiss skier who used summer preparation to "work on confidence, on small things." I try to get the most out of each run, and I'm really glad I was able to bring that back into the race.
Vlhova stated that losing 1.30 seconds wasn't too bad.
The Slovakian skier stated, "I don’t think I am that far behind," "Today it was like that, but next race it could be completely different."
Shiffrin won her 13th GS race victory seven years ago. She shared the 2014 win with Anna Fenninger from Austria.
Many of Shiffrin's main challengers had a difficult start to their seasons.
Particularly, Marta Bassino and Federica Brnone, both Italian GS experts, skied out.
Bassino won the race last year and was the overall winner. She lost control of her right-side ski halfway through her first run. At that point, she was already 0.57 behind Shiffrin.
Brignone finished 1.52 behind in 15th, before she hooked a gate with her left hand in the second.
Other stars struggled too, with Tessa Worley, a French star, finishing 2.06 behind in eighth, and Alice Robinson, New Zealand's season opener, coming in at 2.41 seconds behind in 11th.
The traditional winter season-opener, held in October, is often a race in which many skiers don't find their rhythm seven months after the close of the previous season.
Shiffrin stated that sometimes people don't push as hard and just use it almost as training. But you have to really attack the hill.
Shiffrin was the leader of a strong U.S. ski team showing. Four of five U.S. starters scored World Cup points including Nina O'Brien's career-best ninth. AJ Hurt was 20th and Paula Moltzan was 23rd.
The race attracted 9,000 spectators amid strict anti-coronavirus precautions.
Prior to the race, a minute of silence was observed in memory Gian Franco Kasper (the long-standing president FIS), who died in July just weeks after Johan Eliasch was elected his successor.
Sunday's men's World Cup begins with a GS at the same hill.