‘I just felt alive’: Mikaela Shiffrin gets her first slalom victory in more than a year
FLACHAU, Austria — Not known for exuberant victory celebrations, Mikaela Shiffrin let out a loud scream this time after crossing the finish line.
Shiffrin’s victory in a night slalom Tuesday was unlike most of her previous 67 World Cup wins.
In the last slalom before next month’s world championships, Shiffrin ended a year-long victory drought in her strongest discipline and earned her 100th World Cup podium.
“I felt, like, inspired, I just felt alive. I was pushing. It’s hard to explain. I wish I could explain,” said the American, who was away from the circuit for much of 2020 because of the death of her father and a back injury.
Shiffrin is the 2014 Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion but last triumphed in slalom in December 2019.
On Tuesday, she held on to her opening-run lead and beat Katharina Liensberger by 0.19 seconds following a near-flawless final run, denying the Austrian her maiden career win, and the Austrian team a first slalom win since November 2014.
Liensberger is the only skier to finish in the top three of all five slaloms so far this season.
“So much energy has been building up, it all, like, went out on that run,” said Shiffrin. “What can I say? That’s cool.”
After dominating the circuit for three straight seasons, Shiffrin lost her overall title to Federica Brignone last year.
The American has been gradually working her way back after her 10-month break. She won her first race since her return at a giant slalom in France in December before adding the second on Tuesday.
“All of the pieces that go into race day came together tonight. It’s amazing, but it doesn’t mean it’s fixed yet,” she said. “Tonight was really, really good.”
The result made Shiffrin the eighth skier in the 54-year-long history of the World Cup to reach 100 podium finishes.
On the women’s side, only Lindsey Vonn (137), Annemarie Moser-Proell (114), Renate Goetschl (110) and Vreni Schneider (101) have more top-three finishes than Shiffrin.
“I definitely wasn’t thinking about records today,” Shiffrin said. “I just wanted to ski well. This slope kind of tripped me up the last couple of years and I just wanted to ski, like, I don’t know, strong and inspired. It’s really, really fun tonight.”
Wendy Holdener was 0.43 behind in third, extending her record to 25 podiums without winning a race in the slalom discipline.
Overall World Cup leader Petra Vlhova, who won three of the previous four slaloms this season, placed fourth.
Michelle Gisin in fifth was 1.52 off the lead. Two weeks ago, Gisin won in another Austrian resort, Semmering, to become the first skier other the Shiffrin or Vlhova to win a World Cup slalom in 29 races since January 2017.
Shiffrin also led the slalom in Semmering after the first run before dropping to third.
“When you’re leading in the first run, and in the second run, you’re standing at the top, the wait is forever,” Shiffrin said. “In Semmering I felt that, and I was like: ‘I can’t do it.’ Today, I felt that, and every second I was thinking: ‘Let me go, let me go, let me go!’ Like, I wanted to go now. That was very exciting.”
Shiffrin has finished on the podium here all eight times she competed in the floodlit race since 2013, including four wins.
She has won a record 44 World Cup slaloms and 68 races overall, putting her in outright third place on the all-time winners list, one ahead of Marcel Hirscher.
Only Ingemar Stenmark (86) and Vonn (82) have more wins.
Shiffrin led a strong showing by the U.S. ski team, with Paula Moltzan in ninth earning her first top-10 result in slalom.
A.J. Hurt finished 29th for her career best in the discipline. Hurt had not scored World Cup points before this season but now has top-30 finishes in four different events.
Camille Rast of Switzerland, a late starter with bib No. 57 who had not qualified for a second run before, was 14th after the opening run and finished the race in sixth.
The women’s World Cup continues with two giant slaloms in Kranjska Gora this weekend, after the races were moved from another Slovenian resort, Maribor, because of a lack of snow.
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