KILLINGTON — Anna Swenn-Larsson of Sweden and Wendy Holdener of Switzerland finished in a rare tie for first place in the Killington Cup slalom event on Sunday in front of a crowd of thousands.
It was a special moment for Holdener, 29, who had previously accumulated 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career in slalom without notching a World Cup win in the event.
“There are a lot of thoughts going on at the moment so I don’t realize it really,” Holdener said after the race, “but to come into the finish and be [tied] with Anna was really nice. I’m really happy.”
Swenn-Larsson, 31, also recorded her first World Cup slalom win after totaling six podiums previously.
“It feels amazing,” she said. “I’m just so happy and proud and it’s something I’ve been fighting for my whole life.”
Katharina Truppe of Austria finished third, 0.22 seconds behind the two winners.
Mikaela Shiffrin, who had previously won each of the five Killington Cup slalom events, finished in fifth place, 0.55 seconds back of Holdener and Swenn-Larsson. Shiffrin was the final racer of the day having led after the first of the two runs, but couldn’t hold on amid deteriorating snow conditions as temperatures rose throughout the day.
“I pushed. I fought. The second run, we’ll go back and look at the video and we’ll try to figure out which turns I lost speed on and how I can do it better,” Shiffrin said.
After her run, Shiffrin greeted the two winners with hugs, and acknowledged that she couldn’t be too upset with the result.
“It just didn’t happen today,” she admitted. “The crowd was still incredible. And the rain held off until after the race. Wendy and Anna got their first wins.”
“They earned that,” Shiffrin added of Holdener and Swenn-Larsson. “They deserve it and I’m just really happy for them.”
Holdener, who has won five Olympic medals — including a gold in the 2018 Pyeongchang team event — finally got the individual breakthrough on the World Cup level.
She opened up about persevering in racing despite so many near-misses.
“I love skiing and I try to never forget to have fun because I haven’t always had fun racing,” Holdener explained. “I had years where it wasn’t that easy, so I’m really happy that I’m back and skiing well and can fight for the win.”
It was a difficult day for US racers. Four of the team’s six slalom entries did not finish the first run, skiing out as the course became less forgiving with the warmer conditions.
Paula Moltzan was skiing at a top-10 pace over the first three timechecks, but caught an edge and nearly missed a gate toward the bottom. The former NCAA champion at the University of Vermont managed to finish, but ended in 42nd place (outside the cutoff for a second run).
The future of the Killington Cup remains up in the air. The agreement between Killington and the FIS World Cup ran through 2022. Killington general manager Mike Solimano said in an October interview that while the ski area “loves hosting the event,” no decisions have yet been made about its future.
Still, US racer Nina O’Brien — who attended Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy before turning professional — had no issue making her thoughts clear on the matter.
“Look around, everyone loves it,” said O’Brien. “It’s so cool to see racing alive and see how excited people are about it in the US. And if you ask any of the athletes, they’re all so excited. They love coming here. They love being in the US interacting with the fans. So fingers crossed we’ll figure it out for a few more years.”