Following the Italian duet is Petra Vlhova (SVK), the protagonist of a great comeback in the second run that allowed her to recover 7 positions and finally conquer her first career podium in Soelden!
Among the long-awaited was Alice Robinson, defending Solden champion, who missed the top 10 but slips from the fourth position in the first run to the 12th final due to a bad mistake on the steep part of the slope.
There are those who certainly shone and it is the case of Michelle Gisin who is getting closer and closer to her first Giant Slalom podium. Sofia Goggia (ITA) and Lara Gut Behrami (SUI) return among the top positions in the discipline and Paula Moltzan (USA) with bib 62 wins her first Top Ten.
USA's Paula Moltzan kicked off the 2020-21 season with a bang in Soelden, Austria on Saturday, skiing from bib 62 to take 10th place—her best FIS Ski World Cup finish ever. Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team teammate Nina O’Brien snagged her best-ever giant slalom result, finishing 15th.
As per the 2020 trend, the season started off strangely, with no crowds at the usually raucous World Cup opening event on the Soelden glacier. But social distancing, masks and significantly less training time than previous years didn’t seem to cause a hiccup for Paula, who attacked from the back first run to ski into 17th place. And she kept that momentum going through second run, crushing Soelden’s famed sustained steep pitch to finish 10th—her career-best World Cup result.
Normally known as a "slalom specialist" with seven points-scoring slalom finishes throughout her years on the World Cup, this was only Paula’s second World Cup giant slalom and her first time making a second run in giant slalom.
“I’m a bit shocked! I knew I was skiing well through training and I had a lot of people tell me it was there, but for it to actually come to fruition in the race is mind-boggling,” said Paula. “But I’m really happy with how I skied and happy that both Nina and I today got into the top 15. I think it's really a strong statement for the U.S. to come into our first race this strong."
While on-snow training time was shortened due to the pandemic, the former University of Vermont skier and NCAA slalom champion, Paula credits her result to her time in the gym during the extended offseason. “Starting April 1 until September when we came to Europe, I just worked out every day twice a day for a long time with not a lot of breaks,” said Paula. “I think that really played into how my skiing has improved. I guess you should listen to your trainers, right?!”
Nina’s 15th place was also a banner result for her, her best finish in either giant slalom or slalom, which she attributes to the strong prep period the U.S. women had in Hintertux, Austria, Saas-Fee, Switzerland and some indoor skiing training leading up to Soelden. “We’ve been having fun, but are trying to be really focused and getting stuff done on the hill,” said Nina. “It’s pretty cool when it shows up on race day.”
Notably missing from Saturday’s World Cup opener was two-time Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin, who is recovering after tweaking her back in training. But she was on the mind of her teammates, who said she been a huge help in preparing the women for the race she’s podiumed at five times. “Mikaela is a great supporter of all the girls that raced today,” said Paula. “I know it was a hard decision for her to not race, but she’s been really helpful. She sat down with us and talked about the race hill. I was texting her all week and she’s been super supportive, which is really nice.”
Kelly Cashman and AJ Hurt also started the giant slalom, but did not make second run.