Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin steams into worlds with another win
MARIBOR, Slovenia — Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin seems rather ready for the 2019 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Are, Sweden.
In fact, she’s probably wanting the giant slalom and slalom to be moved, to say, Monday and Tuesday, instead of their traditional positions during the second week of the championships — more specifically, Feb. 14 and Feb. 16 — the way she’s going.
Shiffrin made it a sweep of the Maribor, Slovenia, World Cup tech races by winning Saturday’s slalom by 0.77 seconds over Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener (1.15 seconds back). Shiffrin won on Friday as well in giant slalom, sharing the podium with Slovakia’s Petra Vhlova.
“I think, for some people watching it feels like I am used to it but I’m not,” Shiffrin told The Associated Press.
“It’s always a fight. Every race is a fight. There is always something that I have to battle: it’s the other racers, it’s the conditions, it’s also my own mentality. So I am always really thankful and happy for this kind of weekends.”
More records fall
With the victory, Shriffin is breaking or approaching some stunning records. Saturday was her 56th World Cup win, passing Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider (55) for third on the women’s World Cup win list. Only teammate Lindsey Vonn (82) and Austria’s Annemarie Moser-Proell (62) have won more times.
This is also her 13th win this season, the most by any American in one campaign. Vonn took the top step of the podium 12 times during the 2011-12 season, a mark that Shiffrin tied last season.
The record for most wins in a season belongs — for now — to Schneider, who won 14 times during 1988-99. The Swiss ski legend will hang on to that record for a few more weeks as world championships wins — and Shiffrin is the three-time slalom champion in the event — do not count as World Cup wins.
Also, this is the 10th giant slalom win of her career. Shiffrin just broke the standard for most GS wins by a woman, previously held by Tamara McKinney, who captured the hearts of locals in winning the women’s combined gold during the 1989 worlds in Vail.
After her runs on Friday, Shiffrin stopped in the finish area and bent over, causing some concern as to how she was feeling. At the time, Shiffrin said that a two-week absence from the World Cup tour left her with some rust. The Associated Press reported on Saturday that Shiffrin did some physical therapy Friday, and that seemed to do the trick.
The two-week absence is part of Shiffrin’s plan this season. Last year, she competed in all tech events around Christmas and New Year’s — a schedule of 10 giant slaloms and slaloms — and also took on three speed races in Cortina, Italy, in succession.
That appeared to take an understandable toll on her as she recorded DNFs in the 2018 Kronplatz, Italy, GS, and the ensuing Lenzerheide, Switzerland, slalom, as she approached the Olympics in South Korea, where weather played havoc with the racing schedule.
While she won the giant-slalom gold and super-combined silver in Pyeongchang, Shiffrin and her camp vowed to learn from those experiences in 2018-19. After a similarly strenuous schedule around the recent holidays, Shiffrin skipped two downhills in Cortina, stopping by Italy to win the super-G on Jan. 20. She then took a pass on last weekend’s Garmisch, Germany, speed events to rest and recalibrate her tech skills for this weekend and Worlds.
— U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team (@usskiteam) February 2, 2019
Keeping within this theme, Shiffrin has not disclosed her full plan for the world championships. She will compete in the GS and slalom, but has not declared for any of the speed races.
The festivities in Are begin with Tuesday’s women’s super-G and Shiffrin actually is the World Cup leader with 300 points over Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather (268) and Austria’s Nicole Schmidhofer (253).
She also has a decision with Friday’s super-combined. Slalomers traditionally hold the advantage in this format — a downhill run in the morning and slalom during the afternoon — and, well, there’s no one better in gates these days than Shiffrin. Presumably, she will make her intentions known in the next few days.
News and notes
• American Paula Moltzan finished 16th on Saturday for her fourth time in the points this season in slalom.
• While the attention is rightly on the ramp up to worlds, this was a great weekend for Shiffrin in the chase for GS and slalom season titles as well. Yes, Shiffrin tied with Vhlova on Friday in the GS, but more importantly finished eight places ahead of France’s Tessa Worley (ninth). Shiffrin entered the weekend with just a 10-point lead over Worley in the pursuit of her first GS World Cup championship. Shiffrin now enjoys a 455-374 lead over the Frenchwoman.
• The slalom race is also surprisingly close, given that Shiffrin has 860 of 900 possible points with seven wins and two second-place finishes. Please note that parallel slaloms and city events are also counted in this total by FIS.
Vhlova has been dogged in her pursuit of Shiffrin. Going into Saturday’s race, Shiffrin led Vlhova by only 80 points. No, that’s not a razor-thin margin, but it’s slalom. Hypothetically, Shiffrin misses a gate (no points earned) in a future World Cup race, while Vhlova (100 points) wins, and the Slovakian takes the lead. While Shiffrin won on Saturday, Vhlova fell to fifth place, a 55-point swing for the former. Shiffrin now leads the slalom table, 860-725, over Vhlova with Holdner is the rear-view mirror at 485.
• In the “just for fun” department, take a look at the FIS World Cup points page. Were the season to end today, Shiffrin would win globes in everything — overall, super-G, GS and slalom — except downhill, where she is ranked 20th.
Shiffrin seems definitely ready for worlds.
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