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Eagle-Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin, who turned 21 on Sunday, has not lost a slalom race on the World Cup circuit in more than a year, claiming her fifth consecutive slalom on Saturday in St. Moritz, Switzerland, by another dominating margin of more than two seconds. But it wasn’t enough to take home her fourth straight crystal globe in the discipline.
Frida Hansdotter got that honor in the World Cup finals, despite finishing third in the race and 2.31 seconds behind Shiffrin, who missed two months of this season with a knee injury sustained in a training run in December. It’s clear that Shiffrin is by far the world’s best slalom skier and likely could have competed for the overall title this season if not for the injury.
A subdued but happy Shiffrin didn’t celebrate too demonstrably on Saturday after winning the 19th World Cup slalom race of her career and 20th overall, good for a tie for 20th on the all-time victory list. She was asked how she is able to beat the field by such huge margins in a sport where victories are typically measure in tenths and even hundredths of seconds.
“It just seems like I’m able to be connected with my skis better and move quicker (than the other women), the rhythm changes don’t get me as much and so it all adds up. Two seconds is a lot but it’s not that much. So I could easily see them figuring that out and coming right back and beating me,” Shiffrin said, according to the Associated Press.
Veronika Velez-Zuzulova was second on Saturday, 2.03 seconds behind Shiffrin.
After winning two consecutive races by enormous margins in Aspen in November, Shiffrin told RealVail.com she thought she had a realistic shot at competing for the overall World Cup title, which was won by Switzerland’s Lara Gut. Shiffrin earned points by finishing in the top 20 in two speed events this season, although her giant slalom (the only other discipline she’s won in) was not as sharp as seasons past.
Still, the two-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist managed a podium in the opening GS in Soelden, Austria, and appeared on her way to a possible breakout overall season before crashing in training in Norway.
Vail’s Lindsey Vonn was forced to cut her season short after picking up her record 76th career win and taking over the overall lead. Gunning for her fifth overall title, Vonn injured her knee and was forced to bow out to Gut, who coasted to the victory down the stretch. Vonn did, however, wind up winning her eighth career downhill discipline globe. Bo.th Vail-area racers will no doubt be back with a vengeance next season.
Shiffrin became the first woman to win more than three races in one discipline in a season but not finish in the top three in the hunt for the discipline globe.
Here’s the full press release from the U.S. Ski Team:
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland (March 19, 2016) – She is simply in a class all her own. Mikaela Shiffrin provided another dominating slalom victory – her fifth win of the season – Saturday at the Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals.
Shiffrin’s winning time of 2.03 seconds was stunning; especially considering that a number of her top competitors struggled on the grippy snow surface baked by the warm spring sunshine. In Saturday’s race, she left Slovakia’s Veronika Valez Zuzulova in her wake, along with Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter, who finished second and third respectively. Resi Stiegler (Jackson, WY), who was competing at the World Cup Finals for the first time since 2007, was 11th.
Shiffrin, the defending Olympic slalom gold medalist and three-time U.S. National Slalom Champion, moved another step ahead of her competition this season, but in the back of her mind, she knows that someday the competition may figure out just what makes her so fast.
“When I watch the video, it just seems like I’m able to be connected with my skis better and quicker (than the other competitors),” she said. “The rhythm changes don’t to get me as much … and that just all ads up. Two seconds, it’s a lot, but it’s not that much. So I could easily see them figuring that out and coming right back to beat me.”
Injury was the only thing that beat Shiffrin this season. For the first time in her young career, a knee injury suffered prior to the third slalom of the season in Are, Sweden, forced her to miss eight weeks of competition, including six of the 11 World Cup slalom races this season. Hansdotter won the overall World Cup slalom Crystal Globe after posting five top-five finishes, including one victory, during Shiffrin’s absence. Shiffrin, the three-time defending World Cup slalom champion finished fourth overall this season.
“I feel like my slalom is 100 percent,” Shiffrin said. “My GS … the timing is there sometimes. I’m a little uncertain about tomorrow, but I’m going to try my best. My number one goal is to get a good feeling with the timing and the flow. When you see really good GS skiers ski, you’re like ‘I just want to do that!’”
In the men’s World Cup Finals giant slalom Saturday, Thomas Fanara of France won his first World Cup race by 0.02 over countrymen Alexis Pinturault in second and Mathieu Faivre in third. American Tim Jitloff was 20th. Austria’s Marcel Hirscher finished fifth and wrapped up the overall World Cup giant slalom title.
Up next are the final World Cup races of the season Sunday as the men race slalom and the women race giant slalom. David Chodounsky (Crested Butte, CO) and Shiffrin are scheduled to compete for the U.S. Ski Team.
It’s always nice to end the season on top.
When I watch the video, it just seems like I’m able to be connected with my skis better (than the other competitors) and quicker. The rhythm changes don’t to get me as much … and that just all ads up. Two seconds, it’s a lot, but it’s not that much. So I could easily see them figuring that out and coming right back to beat me.
I feel like my slalom is 100 percent. My GS … the timing is there sometimes, I’m a little uncertain about tomorrow, but I’m going to try my best. My number one goal is to get a good feeling with the timing and the flow. When you see really good GS skiers ski, you’re like ‘I just want to do that!’”