EagleVail’s Mikaela Shiffrin finished third in a World Cup giant slalom at Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic on Friday, closing in on the single-season crystal globe in the discipline.
Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova won the race to pick up 100 points and gain 60 on Shiffrin, who had the fastest second-run time and got 60 points for third. Shiffrin was more than a second behind Vlhova in fourth after the first run.
Shiffrin, who has already defended her slalom and overall globes, now leads the chase for the GS globe by 97 points, meaning Vlhova would have to win the final GS of the season and Shiffrin would have to DNF in order for the Slovakian skier to take the season-long discipline title.
Shiffrin also leads the season super-G standings by 32 points with one race to go next week in Soldeu, Andorra, at the World Cup Finals. That’s where the final GS of the season will also decide the season-long standings.
On Saturday, Shiffrin is a heavy favorite in the slalom at Spindleruv Mlyn, where a win would give her a World Cup record 15 for the season. She’s currently tied for that mark with Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider. It would also be the 58th victory of Shiffrin’s career at age 23.
Spindleruv Mlyn is where Shiffrin first debuted on the World Cup circuit eight years ago as a 15-year-old.
Here’s the full press release on Friday’s race form U.S. Ski and Snowboard:
Eight years after her first-career FIS Ski World Cup start in Špindlerův Mlýn, Czech Republic, Mikala Shiffrin (Avon, Colo.) returned to where it all began, and fought back second run in the penultimate giant slalom of the season to finish third Friday.
On a balmy day with springlike conditions where the temperatures didn’t quite reach freezing, the race organizers watered and salted the track in order to ensure the best possible conditions for the World Cup’s return to Špindl. Shiffrin, coming off two weeks of rest and training following a grueling World Cup and World Championship schedule that has resulted in 16 combined victories this season, finished fourth in the first run, 1.33 seconds off first-run leader, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova. However, that deficit was too big of a mountain to climb in the second run on as Vlhova held on for the victory, her third giant slalom victory of the season (and her third-straight giant slalom victory, including World Championships and a tie for first with Shiffrin in Maribor). Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg was second, followed by Shiffrin in third.
Shiffrin made some uncharacteristic mistakes in the first run to finish fourth, behind Vlhova, Rebensburg and Italy’s Federica Brignone. “It’s a bit frustrating, because I only have myself to blame for my performance the first run,” Shiffrin reflected in the finish after the race. “I was testing my equipment last week to be sure that in these spring conditions I’m trusting everything, and I felt really good with my equipment today. My serviceman Johann did a great job, my coaches have done a great job…everyone’s been doing exactly what they need to do. And then I did the first run and I was like, ‘Ugh!’ It could also be worse, and I was in a position to fight for a podium; I didn’t think I could do something big enough to win the race, but I thought, ‘OK, see what you can do for the podium, and also just try to think like it’s a separate race and do your best best skiing!”
Shiffrin admits she was mad at herself after the first run, and watched video between runs to figure out what adjustment she needed to make second run. Knowing that she needed to be leading by more than 100 points coming out of today’s race in order to secure the giant slalom globe, Shiffrin skied smart and clean, and – though she didn’t quite secure the globe yet – it paid off, as she won the second run by nearly four tenths. The difference in her skiing between first and second run was small, but she was much cleaner and she gave it her all. “It wasn’t so much fighting and tightness,” she noted. “It was smoother and that’s really important for me to be able to ski fast. And I’m SO much happier with this skiing than what I did in the first run. So I think there’s a lesson to learn today, but there’s also things to be proud of. I just have to find that mentality for both runs of the race.”
Crossing the finish line in the lead by 1.2 seconds, Shiffrin was emotional and felt assured that the feeling she had matched the time on the board. It’ll be a fight to the end, as Shiffrin leads Vlhova in the standings by 97 points heading into World Cup Finals in Soldeu, Andorra. “Those three points are enough motivation for me,” said Shiffrin. “It’s not something to protect, but it’s something to be really aware of, and again – like all season – take nothing for granted. Clearly Petra is skiing well, but my second run was something to be proud of, so we’ll see what happens.”
As for tomorrow? Shiffrin knows it will be a fight. It’s a “super cool slalom hill – a fun hill,” though it is steep right out of the gate so she knows she’ll have to be precise and aggressive from top to bottom. With the slalom globe already locked in, Shiffrin can ski freely and without pressure. With 14 World Cup victories under her belt this season, Shiffrin is currently tied with Vreni Schneider for most World Cup wins. Teammate Resi Stiegler (Jackson Hole, Wyo.) will also start in Saturday’s slalom.
Women’s giant slalom
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
Friday, March 8
4:30 a.m. – Women’s giant slalom run 1 – Spindleruv Mlyn, CZE – OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. – Women’s giant slalom run 2 – Spindleruv Mlyn, CZE – Olympic Channel-TV, OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
12:00 p.m. – Women’s giant slalom run 2 – Spindleruv Mlyn, CZE – NBCSN*
Saturday, March 9
3:30 a.m. – Men’s giant slalom run 1 – Kranjska Gora, SLO – Olympic Channel-TV, OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
4:30 a.m. – Women’s slalom run 1 – Spindleruv Mlyn, CZE – OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. – Men’s giant slalom run 2 – Kranjska Gora, SLO – Olympic Channel-TV, Olympic Channel-TV, OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
4:30 a.m. – Women’s slalom run 2 – Spindleruv Mlyn, CZE – Olympic Channel-TV, OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
Sunday, March 10
4:30 a.m. – Men’s slalom run 1 – Kranjska Gora, SLO – OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. – Men’s slalom run 2 – Kranjska Gora, SLO – Olympic Channel-TV, OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
All streams are available via desktop (NBCSports.com/Live, NBCSports.com/Gold andOlympicChannel.com) as well as mobile, tablet and connected television platforms. The NBC Sports app, NBC Sports Gold app and Olympic Channel app are available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire. Exclusive commercial-free coverage will be available for subscribers of the NBC Sports Gold Pass.