Aspen, Colo. — Tessa Worley waved her ski pole at the finish and pumped her fist.
Rarely has not winning felt this rewarding.
The Frenchwoman clinched the season-long giant slalom title Sunday with a conservative run on a day Federica Brignone led an Italian sweep at the World Cup Finals.
“I just went for it, kept it simple,” explained Worley, who finished fifth to edge American Mikaela Shiffrin by 85 points for her first crystal globe. “I’m really, really happy with the season. Now, I have it.”
Brignone glided through the course in a combined time of 1 minute, 58.01 seconds to beat teammate Sofia Goggia by 1.44 seconds. Marta Bassino took third. Moments after her finish, Brignone, the first-run leader, tried to ski over to her Italian teammates, but struggled to gain any traction in the soft snow.
Finally, they shared an embrace. It’s the first time the Italian women have swept the podium since 1996, according to information provided by the International Ski Federation. On that March day, Italian great Deborah Compagnoni led a dominating giant slalom performance in Norway.
“This is one of the best days of my life, being on the podium with two Italians,” Brignone said. “It was really, really fun. I didn’t even know they were in front. I didn’t know anything. I went down and gave it my
best. When I saw I was in front, I didn’t see the girls in second and third. Then I heard over the speaker — ‘Goggia’ and ‘Bassino.’ It was one of my biggest emotions.”
In the end, this was Worley’s stage — or so she was hoping. That’s why she wasn’t racing Sunday so much to win as not make any major mistakes.
Worley entered the final race of the women’s World Cup season with an 80-point lead over Shiffrin in the GS standings. Worley was cautious in the first run and turned it up just a notch in her final pass to sew up the discipline crown. Shiffrin struggled to uncover speed and wound up sixth.
“I’m not very satisfied,” Shiffrin said. “I felt like I had some really good turns but didn’t take enough aggression when I really needed it. It’s a bit of a bummer, but it’s good motivation for next year.”
Shiffrin and Worley both won three giant slalom races this season. The 22-year-old Shiffrin already clinched the slalom and overall titles.
On Sunday, in front of an adoring Aspen crowd, Shiffrin was presented the crystal globe for the overall. She broke out in tears.
“It’s hard to describe what I was thinking up there. I had no thoughts,” said Shiffrin, who captured the overall by 318 points over Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia. “That’s when the emotion comes, when I’m not thinking. I don’t always have that emotion.
“It’s sort of sad it’s over. ... There are so many emotional roller-coasters, that you just want to take a nap for three days straight.”
Next season, the Olympic slalom champion plans to add more speed races to her repertoire.
“My goal right now is to race in speed in the Olympics,” Shiffrin said. “I will still focus on my main events, but as I get older and more confident and stronger, I can add more speed.”
Myhrer Takes Slalom Title
Not to get all mushy, but that’s exactly how Andre Myhrer of Sweden prefers his snow.
The slushier, the better and possibly why Myhrer seems to save his best race for the last event of the year.
Myhrer capped off a second straight season with a slalom win at the World Cup Finals, beating Marcel Hirscher of Austria once again, too.
“I’m older, so I need a long start to get in shape,” the 34-year-old Myhrer said after Sunday’s slalom race concluded the finals. “It’s a little easier for me to handle this salty snow, compared to winter snow.”
Myhrer navigated the sun-splashed course in a combined time of 1 minute, 27.97 seconds, holding off Felix Neureuther of Germany by 0.14 seconds. Austria’s Michael Matt was third and Hirscher fourth.
An interesting tidbit about Matt: His older brother, Mario, won the last World Cup men’s slalom race in Aspen in 2001.
Hirscher held a 0.08-second lead heading into the final run, only to uncharacteristically lose speed near the finish.
“A mistake, five gates before finish line was not the happiest moment of the season,” Hirscher explained. “The first half of the run was really good.”
Before his bottom-of-the-hill hiccup, Hirscher appeared on the verge of his 50th World Cup slalom podium finish.
Now, he will have to wait a season to try and join Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark (81) and Italian Alberto Tomba (57) as the only men to achieve that milestone in the discipline.
That is, if he still has the passion to return. Hirscher typically takes a few weeks after every season to decide if he wants to go through the grind again. Then again, it will be an Olympic year as Hirscher searches for that elusive gold medal in South Korea.
“There will be a point, where I have to say, ‘OK, I’m done with professional ski racing and I’ll just go out there and ski for fun,’” Hirscher said. “That is a question: Do I decide when there is this point or by the natural way when the young athletes are kicking my (rear) and I’m out of the game.
“We are often thinking about it, how many years it will be possible to ski on this high level. At the moment, it’s lot of fun.”
The 28-year-old Hirscher turned in a fabulous season that saw him clinch the giant slalom and slalom globes, along with his sixth straight overall title. He also won the slalom and GS at world championships last month.
Asked where he stores all those crystal globes, Hirscher said the safest place he can think of — the bank.
“I trust them,” he cracked.
About the softening snow, Myhrer said he grew up skiing into May as a kid in Sweden. That's why he thrives in spring-like conditions.
He won the slalom at the World Cup Finals in St. Moritz, Switzerland, to last season, too, using a powerful run to hold off Hirscher. That's never an easy task.
"You try to do your best and he's always there," Myhrer said. "So whenever you beat him, you should be proud of yourself. He's an amazing skier."