SOLDEU, Andorra (AP) — Seven weeks after securing it, Mikaela Shiffrin was finally able to hold and kiss the crystal globe for the best slalom skier of the women’s World Cup season.
The dominant American had already locked up the discipline title at a mid-season slalom in the Czech Republic in January, but trophies in ski racing are traditionally handed over only in the final week of the season.
Her Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova used a frenetic finish on her decisive run Saturday to win the slalom at the World Cup Finals ahead of Croatian prodigy Leona Popovic, while Shiffrin placed third.
“It’s the sum of a lot of hard work and many amazing races and the work of the whole team,” Shiffrin said. “I’m very thankful and very proud.”
Shiffrin, who also secured her fifth overall and second giant slalom globe, won six of the 11 slaloms this season, making her the first woman to win seven season titles in slalom, surpassing Swiss standout Vreni Schneider, who won it six times in the 1980s and ’90s.
Shiffrin will be after her 14th win of the season and 88th in total in Sunday’s giant slalom, the last race of the season, a week after setting the record for most career victories with 87 at a slalom in Sweden.
“Since Are I felt a little bit more free,” Shiffrin said. “And even then, I still feel the nerves and the pressure, like I want to win just as much as before. I still have the same motivation, which is the most exciting thing.”
In a tight finish to Saturday’s race, Vlhova trailed then-leader Popovic by eight-hundredths of a second at the last split but gained time through the gates on the flat final sector and finished 0.43 seconds ahead of the Croatian, who earned her first career podium.
Shiffrin trailed Vlhova by 0.83 for her 17th podium result from 30 starts this season.
Vlhova won the season title in slalom last year and won her second race in the current campaign after triumphing in a night event in Austria in January.
“It’s (emotional) because my season was so up and down,” Vlhova said. “I wanted to come here and show my skiing in the last races and have a good feeling for the next season.”
After the first run, Vlhova led Popovic by 0.32 seconds. Third-place Anna Swenn Larsson of Sweden straddled a gate in her final run.
Shiffrin was 0.59 behind in fourth. The American led the opening run until the final split but lost three-quarters of a second after making a mistake entering the flat finish sector.
Canadian skier Laurence St-Germain, who beat Shiffrin to the world slalom title last month, was 10th after the opening run but became one of six skiers who didn’t finish the second run, which was affected by rain and wet snow as dark clouds moved over the course.
“It was tricky with the snow coming. There’s just like so many weather conditions today,” Shiffrin said. “It was really fun to race, it’s a challenging slope and it’s kind of interesting to finish the season with that. Because for me it gives a lot insight into the things we can work on through the summertime and into the preparation for next season. So, it kind of leaves some motivation.”