Mikaela Shiffrin continues to stun in a near perfect season. She swept the weekend in Maribor, sharing the top of the podium with Petra Vlhova on Friday, and winning the slalom on Saturday. Her slalom win in Maribor marks Shiffrin’s 56th overall win and 38th slalom win, putting her just two wins behind Ingemar Stenmark’s slalom World Cup victory record. She also broke the United States record for most wins in a single season, at 13 total wins.
Then again, every win that Shiffrin adds to her tally seems to break some kind of record or inches closer to another. While proud and humbled by her success, the young American is beginning to feel a bit frustrated by the constant spew of numbers. Post Saturday’s slalom, she took some time to remind the press that every race is a new race, and each girl that pushes out of the start gate on race day intends to win. Shiffrin is known for being consistent, but that does not mean victory should always be expected. Every race is a never-ending battle for her, and the entire competitive field.
“This year it’s been a lot of statistics, a lot of numbers, a lot of records, and every race it’s a new one. So I’m starting to feel like it’s normal to hear more statistics,” said Shiffrin. “To be honest I feel like those numbers dehumanize what I’m doing and what we’re all doing. I’ve heard many people say to this point that it’s boring to watch the same winner, and for me, it’s not boring. Every race I’m always fighting and going my hardest. There’s always a new goal and way to keep doing better. With many of the competitors, Wendy [Holdener], Petra [Vlhova], Frida [Hansdotter], Tessa [Worley], Vikky [Rebensburg], all of these girls…we don’t know how it’s going to end, so for us, it’s not boring. There’s never any certainty. Summing this entire day up into one number is not possible for me.”
To be the best, athletes must always put a fight. Every race, no matter what, Shiffrin is fighting for a win. A win in the Maribor slalom is special because it highlights the strength it takes for athletes to overcome tough conditions, adapt to warm weather and soft snow, and still come out on top. Vlhova is typically Shiffrin’s right hand woman on the podium in technical events. On Saturday, in rare fashion, Vlhova finished fifth. Any race could be the race a top performer slips.
“Today for sure it was a battle with the conditions. The snow was soft and it was just so warm that it was difficult to find a really good feeling,” said Shiffrin. “It’s always a battle to manage a victory. Every race is a battle. It doesn’t matter if I win by two seconds or one-tenth, or one hundredth, it’s always going to be a battle.”
Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson also put up a fight, finishing in second place for the first time in her World Cup career. Larsson’s last podium performance was in Are in 2014, when she finished third in the slalom. Larsson thought that she had finally reached her goal of a podium finish in January’s Flachau night slalom, but her third-place finish was soon rescinded when the race committee revealed she had unknowingly straddled, making Saturday’s success even sweeter.
“I’m really happy and I have been fighting for this for a long time,” said Larsson. “I’m trying to just focus on my skiing and fun and not have too high expectations. I think I get stressed, I need to have fun and be calm to perform.”
Wendy Holdener had been sitting in sixth after the first run. To break onto the podium she had to attack in the second run and succeeded in finishing third. So far, each of her podium finishes in 2018/19 has ended in a third-place finish. Holdener currently holds a World Cup record for most podium finishes without a win. Going into World Championships, she is hungry for a breakthrough.
“My first run was just not right, I had the wrong plan. I wanted to ski nice and soft, but I have to give full gas and attack if I want to be fast and I showed that skiing in the second run, but it’s a little too late if you’re showing it in the second run,” said Holdener. “I learned something today, that I have to give full gas and I think it helps me for World Champs because I have nothing to lose.”
In her first race back from injury, USA’s Resi Stiegler could not complete her second run. Her teammates, Lila Lapanja, AJ Hurt, and Nina O’Brien did not qualify for second runs. Paula Moltzan, on the other hand, finished in 16th, her fourth top 20 in the World Cup slalom this season. The University of Vermont athlete was recently named to the World Championships technical team, alongside Shiffrin and O’Brien.
Next stop for the women is Are, Sweden. Training for the World Championship downhill race begins on February 4th.
1.Mikaela Shiffrin (USA): 1:42:60 – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2. Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE): +0.77 – Head/Head/Head
3. Wendy Holdener (SUI): +1.15 – Head/Head/Head
6. Bernadette Schild (AUT): +2.11 – Head/Head/Head
9. Katharina Truppe (AUT): +2.67 – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
For full FIS results, click here.