The 2015-16 Alpine Skiing World Cup has got its conclusion also in terms of technical disciplines and our series of season reviews switches to them. The third part concentrates on women’s technical disciplines.
Frida Hansdotter Finally Slalom Champion
Frida Hansdotter had been one of the best slalom skiers of the previous seasons, finishing last two seasons in the second place of the slalom World Cup. However, she hadn’t been able to match the performances of the dominant slalom skier Mikaela Shiffrin.
That domination by Shiffrin continued in the season’s first two slalom races in Aspen, looking like nobody could beat her for the title. But in warm-up for the giant slalom of Åre, Shiffrin suffered a knee injury in a crash, putting her out of competition for over two months.
Shiffrin’s injury made Hansdotter the favorite for the slalom title. Hansdotter had made the podium 15 times before this season, winning only twice but finishing second 12 times, most of those being second-places to dominant slalom skiers Shiffrin and Marlies Schild.
Hansdotter couldn’t really dominate slalom even with Shiffrin out; she won only one race as opposed to her main title challenger Veronika Velez-Zuzulová with two victories. Yet Hansdotter was as consistent as ever; by the end of the season, she had a streak of 29 top-10 finishes in slalom including the World Cup, the World Championships and the Olympics, starting from the beginning of the 2013-14 season. She finished on podium in seven of the season’s 10 regular slalom races as well as made the final of the Stockholm city event. Nobody could match that consistency and Hansdotter could celebrate her first World Cup discipline title one race before the end of the slalom season.
Hansdotter had her career-best season overall, she was ninth in the giant slalom World Cup and finished in fifth place of the overall World Cup.
Eva-Maria Brem Keeps The Giant Slalom Title In Austria
As the defending overall and giant slalom World Cup champion Anna Fenninger missed the season due to a knee injury, Austria’s hopes in giant slalom were on Eva-Maria Brem who had achieved her first World Cup victory on her way to the previous season’s runner-up position in the giant slalom standings.
Brem showed great consistency in giant slalom, finishing all races but the season-opening Sölden giant slalom inside the top four. That was enough to beat by two points her title rival Viktoria Rebensburg who won one race more than the Austrian.
The most important performance for Brem was her second season victory in the penultimate giant slalom of Jasná where she beat Rebensburg who came just 0.27 seconds from winning after the first run’s 12th place. The title came very narrowly; after leading after the first run of the final race in St. Moritz, Brem fell down into fourth place, just 0.04 seconds ahead of the fifth place that wouldn’t have been enough.
Mikaela Shiffrin Dominates Slalom Before And After Injury
Mikaela Shiffrin started the season strongly. After the season-opening Sölden giant slalom’s second place, she dominated the Aspen weekend, winning the two slalom races with huge margins and coming close to winning the giant slalom, crashing just before the finish line. She also scored points in her super-G debut in Lake Louise, making her look like a contender for the overall World Cup title.
Yet everything changed in the following weekend in Åre. During warm-up for the giant slalom, she crashed and suffered a partially torn MCL and bone bruising in her right knee, taking her out of title contention. Yet despite the initial expectations, she was able to make a comeback during the season in Crans-Montana where the three-time defending slalom champion started the winning streak of the last three slalom races.
No Title But Career-Best Season For Viktoria Rebensburg
Viktoria Rebensburg came just two points shy of her third giant slalom World Cup title. She had a slow start to her giant slalom campaign but had a brilliant second half, winning three of the last four races. She didn’t have the consistency of Brem, which cost her the title.
Despite the narrow miss for the giant slalom title, Rebensburg had a career-best season, finishing third in the overall standings. Fifth in the super-G and seventh in the downhill standings were also career-best achievements for her. However, to become an overall title contender, Rebensburg would need to become a real frontrunner in at least two disciplines, preferably in three.
Giant Slalom In Big Role In Lara Gut’s Overall Title Run
Giant slalom was an important element in Lara Gut’s victorious overall World Cup campaign. While she couldn’t match the dominant Lindsey Vonn in the speed disciplines, being one of the frontrunners in giant slalom enabled her to match Vonn in the overall standings, before walking away with the title after Vonn’s season-ending injury. In this season, Gut achieved her second and third career victories in giant slalom in her way to a career-best third place in the discipline standings.
Career-Best Season For Federica Brignone
The 2011 World silver medalist in giant slalom, Federica Brignone, achieved her first career victory in the season-opening Sölden giant slalom. With two more podium finishes, she led the giant slalom World Cup. However, she couldn’t keep up that level all season long and she finished the season in fourth place of the discipline standings, still a career-best achievement for her.
Brignone also started dropping the reputation of a giant slalom specialist with a career-best sixth place of the super-G World Cup, after the previous career-best of 17th in the previous season. The highlight of Brignone’s super-G campaign came in the snowfall of Soldeu where she achieved her second season victory.
Brignone was also the only skier to achieve points in all disciplines if we exclude Gut’s and Vonn’s slalom points from the city events. In the overall World Cup, she achieved a career-best eighth place. However, as mentioned in Rebensburg’s case, a skier needs to be an absolute frontrunner in at least two disciplines, preferably in three, to be an overall title contender.
Wendy Holdener And Petra Vlhová Rising Stars In Slalom
Wendy Holdener and Petra Vlhová were two skiers in their early 20s to achieve their first World Cup victories this season. The 22-year-old Holdener achieved her first win in the Stockholm city event in the slalom campaign that ended with the third place of the discipline standings. In alpine combined she did even better; with the second career victory in Lenzerheide, she claimed the discipline World Cup champion’s small crystal globe in combined. In the overall World Cup she finished as high as sixth.
Two years younger Vlhová didn’t have the same consistency as Holdener. In her run to the sixth place of the slalom standings, Vlhová achieved her first victory in December in Åre.
Worth mentioning is also Nina Løseth. Although she isn’t particularly a youngster at the age of 27, she had a solid season, finishing sixth in the slalom standings, eighth in giant slalom standings, and ninth overall. Løseth made her three first podium appearances this season, including the first victory in the Santa Caterina slalom.