Out of her 51 overall wins, 36 of those wins have been in the slalom, a new World Cup record set by American Mikaela Shiffrin in Semmering, Austria, Saturday morning. Previously, Shiffrin’s childhood idol Marlies Schild of Austria, held the count for most slalom wins in World Cup history for the women, at 35 total wins.
The American had set a high precedent after the first run, separating herself from the top of the field by 0.48 seconds. In pursuit was Petra Vlhova, who has consistently finished second to Shiffrin in all of the contested slalom’s so far this season.
“Its a lot of time but don’t feel comfortable with it, I never feel comfortable. That’s the thing, kind of managing the speed, but I also know I have to be fast,” said Shiffrin. “I have to be aggressive and fast and fighting if I want to keep this lead.”
Second run, Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener was the fastest woman by far. Her time was 0.58 seconds faster than Shiffrin and 0.39 seconds faster than Vlhova, but not enough for her to overtake the lead. Shiffrin, knowing there was a chance for her to break the record for most wins in a single calendar year, and a chance for her to overtake Schild’s long-standing slalom record, kept her run steady enough to secure the win. She now has earned 15 wins in the year of 2018, and 36 slalom wins overall.
“I’m not chasing these records, and sometimes it gets in my head. But the thing that helps me ski fast is when I focus on my skiing,” says Shiffrin. “Like today, I was really trying to focus on making good slalom turns. Yes, it was a special day. I know it was a big day for a lot of records. But when I was in the starting gate, it was like ‘I better make some good turns, I better earn the win.'”
Shiffrin and Vlhova have gone one-two in every single slalom event so far this season. Last year, Vlhova was the only woman to unseat Shiffrin from her slalom throne. After her historic win in the giant slalom on Friday, another podium was the cherry on top of an already sweet weekend for Vlhova, who is currently second in the overall standings behind Shiffrin. But she still aspires to stand on the top of the podium next to her competitor at some point this season.
“It’s always going to be close with Mikaela. It’s difficult but I’m really proud of myself because it was a good experience after yesterday,” said Vlhova. “It’s the same story, but she push me to my limit and it’s always a great fight with Mikky.”
This is Wendy Holdener’s first time on the slalom podium this season. In Courchevel, she finished fourth. In Killington, she finished sixth. In Levi, she finished fifth. After cutting it close, but never quite grabbing the third position, Holdener finally achieved her goal in Semmering, despite having a bad feeling about both of her runs.
“My coach always tells me don’t go about your feeling, because when I think it’s good, then I have enough time to think and I’m slow. On the second run, I just went for it and I had to fight,” said Holdener.
Admittedly, the Swiss woman was not happy with the way the beginning of the season has gone. But her finish today she has as a step in the right direction as the women head into their next block of races. For the women of tech, the next few weeks are busy ones. The city event in Olso on January 1st, then Zagreb on the 5th, and Flachau on the 8th.
“I had a great season last year, I was really successful. Then in the summer, I worked a lot, maybe too much because in the beginning of the season I had some problems with my skiing, with my confidence, and I was feeling a bit tired. So I’m really happy that I could change it today and be back on the podium,” Holdener said in the post-race press conference.
Despite the consistency of Shiffrin and Vlhova earning the top spots in the slalom event, the top ten had some fresh faces on Saturday. Canada’s Laurence St. Germain snagged the first top ten finish of her career in tenth place, 3.21 seconds out from Shiffrin. Her teammate, Roni Remme, who was 2.60 seconds out from Shiffrin in eighth, also slid into the top ten for the first time in her career. Same goes for Mina Fuerst Holtmann of Norway who charged from the back of the pack in bib 27.
The large gap in time between Shiffrin and the back end of the top ten stems from a challenging course and not so stellar conditions that provided a tough battle for the women. Overall, 20 women did not finish, including consistent slalom contenders such as Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter, Norway’s Nina Haver-Loeseth, and Austria’s Bernadette Schild. Americans Paula Moltzan and Nina O’Brien did not finish their first runs.
Next up on the women’s tech circuit is the city event in Oslo Norway on the first of the new year. The event will kick off for men and women at 4:30 p.m. Central European Time.
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) 1:42.99 – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3. Wendy Holdener (SUI): +0.38 – Head/Head/Head
5. Katharina Truppe (AUT): +1.58 – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
6. Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE): +1.81 – Head/Head/Head
8. Roni Remme (CAN): +2.60 – Head/Head/Head
For complete FIS results, click here.