Edwards’ Mikaela Shiffrin bounced back in a big way from a disappointing showing (by her standards) earlier this month in France by sweeping a pair of World Cup races in Lienz, Austria, over the weekend.
On Sunday, Shiffrin claimed the 43rd slalom win of her career, following up on Saturday’s dominant giant slalom victory.
The two wins — her fourth and fifth of the season — gave her 64 for her career and sole possession of second on the all-time women’s victory list behind only Lindsey Vonn at 82.
Here are the press releases from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team:
On December 29, 2011, Mikaela Shiffrin earned her first World Cup podium in Lienz, Austria. Fast forward eight years to the exact day—December 29, 2019—in Lienz, where Mikaela won her 64th victory and her 43rd slalom victory on Sunday.
Wow. Just WOW.
Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova skied two strong runs on Sunday, but despite giving it her all, she just couldn’t best Mikaela—who was on a mission and skiing out of her mind, after a disappointing result in Courchevel, France a week ago. Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin rounded out the podium in third with her first-career World Cup slalom podium. Michelle has been struggling of late, posting on Instagram after Saturday’s race, “Going through kind of a rough time right now…but you know, this too shall pass.” And pass it did.
Mikaela and Petra have a friendly rivalry, and in this rivalry both competitors push each other, learn from each other, and—as a result—elevate the sport of alpine ski racing together. “Petra has been one of the girls who has been able to beat me when I’ve been skiing really well,” Mikaela spoke of their rivalry. “Her skiing is super strong, and she’s motivated and she has this fire. I have a lot of respect for her and what her team does to be able to push her level, because that pushes my level too.”
The conditions on Sunday were great, and the surface was fast. Both courses were quick sets, and there were some tricky combinations the athletes don’t normally see. Mikaela was watching Petra from the start, “When I saw Petra go on the second run, I was watching from the start and I was thinking, ‘Oh no, I can’t ski it that fast, well…I guess all I can do is try.’ When I have that mindset just to go for it, and I can feel the good skiing, then it’s always really, really satisfying to come into the finish and see it worked out.”
Petra was building on her already over nine tenths lead throughout the entire course, crossing the finish line with a 1.11 lead over Michelle. All indications were pointing towards a victory with the run Petra laid down. But Mikaela had other plans. Skiing clean and strong to cross the finish line with a .61 margin of victory, Mikaela screamed and through her hands up in celebration while Petra stood, seemingly stunned and confused, like a deer in the headlights. In the post-victory press conference, Petra said she thought after her run, “Wow, maybe today I could beat Miki.”
After what Mikaela describes as a “heartbreaking” day in Courchevel, Mikaela came to Lienz rested and well-prepared with some solid giant slalom and slalom training under her belt. The realization that she “wasn’t really strong enough to go to Val d’Isere and race the way that I wanted to and I had to pull back,” was a tough pill for Mikaela to swallow.
Throughout the week, fans and media posted both words of encouragement as well doubt on social media. “Has she lost her touch?” “Maybe she won’t actually ever reach Stenmark’s record!” and “It’s lame that she skipped the races—ski racing is her job!” were just a few of the comments that were shared on social. Mikaela tried to maintain her focus during her training block, as well as spend some “soul-healing” time with family and her team over Christmas to drown out the noise. And then she did what Mikaela does when the noise gets loud…she skied faster. Not only did she win…she won in a BIG way.
Not only did Mikaela sweep the Lienz series, but she won all four runs—a level of dominance so rare in a sport that comes down to hundredths—and she won by a collective margin of almost two seconds. Again, a rarity in a sport where the winner and fourth place can be decided in the time span of a blink of the eye.
To say that Mikaela made a statement in Lienz, would be an understatement. Mikaela laid down some of the best skiing in the history of the sport, to walk away with back-to-back victories and prove to the world that, yes—ski racing is her job, and she does a better job at her job than anyone else. “I don’t really have words,” reflected Mikaela. “Last week the training was really good. I think that the work my team did—what we all did together—was really strong and I think it’s just special to come here and show that. Today was, again, a really special day and I knew that nothing less than 110% was going to be fast enough for this race and I know how strong Petra is skiing, so I was trying to keep myself focused and not get nervous.” But, as we know, Mikaela has learned to manage her nerves.
Mikaela has extended her lead in the overall standings to 295 points over Italy’s Federica Brignone and sits first in the slalom standings, with 300 points—140 points ahead of Petra. Sunday’s Stats: Mikaela Shiffrin has won an all-time record 43 World Cup slalom races, tied with Lindsey Vonn (43 in downhill). Only Ingemar Stenmark (46 in giant slalom) has won more than 42 World Cup races in a single discipline. On 29 December 2011, Shiffrin claimed her first World Cup podium in any discipline as she finished third in the Lienz slalom at age 16.
Nina O’Brien also started for the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team, but did not qualify for a second run, while Paula Moltzan returned to World Cup action, but leaned in a bit on the top section of the course and DNFed.
Up next, the women will have a few days before they head to the always highly anticipated Snow Queen Trophy race on Jan. 4 in Zagreb, Croatia, where Mikaela has won the last two years and four of the last five races at the venue. With the coming new year, Mikaela says “I’m excited for the new challenges, in so many ways this season is so different than last season and I’m starting to accept that and look forward to the new challenges.”
Shiffrin makes statement with skiing
Reigning FIS Ski World Cup overall and giant slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin certainly lets her skiing speak for itself, and today she spoke loudly— winning by a massive margin of 1.36 seconds. She earned her 63rd World Cup victory, surpassing Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll into fourth on the all-time win list behind Marcel Hirscher (67), Lindsey Vonn (82) and Ingemar Stenmark (86).
Italy’s Marta Bassino was second, 1.36 off Mikaela’s pace, while Austrian Katharina Liensberger put on a great show for the home crowd, grabbing her first World Cup giant slalom podium in the 50th edition of the Lienz World Cup on the Hochstein track, 1.82 seconds back.
Mikaela put a challenging day in Courchevel, France in the rear-view mirror and out of her mind, showing the world that she is indeed one of the best giant slalom skiers in the world, with her 11th career giant slalom victory. Ever a practitioner of the sport, Mikaela was back on giant slalom skis the day after Courchevel. She hit the “reset” button and opted to sit out of the Val d’Isere, France downhill and alpine combined—proving to be a smart decision taking into consideration the weather—much to the chagrin of many naysayers (including media and fans). However, when Mikaela makes a decision, it’s always a calculated one, and in this case, it proved to work out in her favor.
Instead, Mikaela got a great block of tech training under her belt at our European training base in Folgaria with our partner Alpe Cimbra, Trentino. Joined by her mother Eileen and father Jeff—who came over for the holidays and plan to go to both Lienz and the upcoming slalom at Zagreb, Croatia—Mikaela enjoyed the holiday. She spent Christmas where she feels most comfortable—in gates, on the mountain. Hard work pays off. And on Saturday it paid off in the form of a massive 1.36 margin win and some beautiful, connected skiing by the quickly emerging greatest of all time. Mikaela described her time with her family over the holidays as “soul-healing.”
“The last week was actually great,” reflected Mikaela. “My mom and dad are here, and the training was amazing and I was so much more prepared for this weekend than I have been. I am really excited…really excited for today. Courchevel made me doubt a lot about what I’m able to do with my giant slalom skiing, so to be able to come back here today after a lot of training the last week and a little bit of rest too, is great. You go through these moments as an athlete where you have to look at your skiing and reflect and say ‘I’m not doing a good enough job.’”
“To me,” she continued, “that happens quite often when I’m trying to race in every event because there’s never enough time to train in every event, so then I have to take a step back. We skipped Val d’Isere because I felt like I wasn’t doing my job. It wasn’t because of the weather, we skipped it because I wasn’t skiing well and I had work to do. We did a lot of work—my team, my coaches—and that paid off in today, and that’s one really big step in the right direction.”
Coming through the finish line, Mikaela was stunned when she looked at the clock. With a look of disbelief, she crouched down similarly to the way she did in Andorra when she held her first career giant slalom globe and hung out there for a moment as she took it all in. You saw that correctly, Mikaela…1.36 seconds. She won both runs, and the second run, in particular, was something special. In the third split alone, Mikaela made up one second of time. ONE SECOND.
She expressed how hard it was to just let the Courchevel result go, and that she was heartbroken after Courchevel. “You can’t go into a race thinking you can deserve something or expect something at all, but it’s hard not to compare what’s going on this season with what went on last season,” she explained. “Everyone is thinking ‘what is she doing this season compared to what she did last season’ and that’s hard because I am thinking that too. I still can’t believe I won 17 races last year, and so I have to reset and think that might never happen again, and just focus on my skiing.”
Mikaela leads the overall standings by 215 points over Italy’s Federica Brignone and has moved back up in the giant slalom standings, from fourth to second, by a mere 21 points behind Federica, who has 275 points to Mikaela’s 254.
Nina O’Brien also started for the Americans, but she did not qualify for a second run. The rest of the women’s tech team is taking some time to focus on the NorAm circuit.
Up next for the women is a slalom on Sunday—exactly eight years to the date Mikaela earned her first-career podium in 2011, where she was third and her childhood idols Marlies Schild (AUT) and Tina Maze (SLO) were first and second, respectively. Slalom specialist Paula Moltzan will return to action after a short break to focus on some nagging back pain, and Nina will start as well.