Saturday’s slalom win in Courchevel is a big one for American Mikaela Shiffrin. Not only is it her third slalom win of the season, but it is also her fifth win in a row across four different disciplines. Shiffrin now has seven wins overall this season, and 50 wins total in her career. This win also breaks and ties multiple records held by legends within the sport. Shiffrin is now tied with Italian Alberto Tomba for seventh on the all-time World Cup win list. She has officially been dubbed “Queen of Courchevel” by winning at the venue four times consecutively, a record previously held by one of her childhood idols, Austrian Marlies Schild. After Saturday Shiffrin is also tied with Schild for most slalom wins among women, at 35 wins total.
All of these numbers, statistics, and records loomed on the horizon as Shiffrin prepared for the slalom race Saturday morning, and Shiffrin had to fight hard to keep them off her mind. After the first run, the race was tight – she only had a 0.04 second lead on Slovakian Petra Vlhova. A slim lead and low energy after a draining giant slalom win had Shiffrin nervous. She knew she had to dig deep to find the will to compete with Vlhova and secure the win.
“Yesterday definitely took it out of me. Physically my energy is good, it’s just waking up mentally has been a bit of a struggle,” Shiffrin said after her first run.
Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter, who had been sitting in fifth after the first run, charged hard to gain a lead and a position in the hot seat before Petra Vlhova snuck past her by 0.08 seconds to secure the top spot. Then it was Shiffrin’s turn to show up and put up a fight. In the middle of the course she fell behind, but the American is known for letting her skis run in the flats, a calculated risk that typically puts her back on top. Saturday, she did just that, finishing 0.29 seconds ahead of Vlhova. With her 50th win secured, the 23-year-old had a moment to take a breath and soak in the weight of her latest accomplishment.
“I just try to ignore the numbers when I race because I have to just focus on my skiing, and those numbers can be a really big distraction for me. It’s not really motivating, it feels more like pressure, but now after the race, I can say it’s a really incredible thing and I’m really happy for sure,” said Shiffrin. “Behind every athlete is such a big structure of people who are helping, sponsors and family and friends, especially the coaches. When I’ve been looking at my coaches the past couple of days, I know they have 1000% percent belief in me. And yesterday and today I believed in myself. I could kind of look at them and say, ‘you did your job and now it’s time for me to do mine.'”
As for Petra Vlhova, Saturday’s race in Courchevel will be her fourth second place podium this season. Three of those four podiums, she has fallen behind Shiffrin. Last season, Vlhova was the only other female athlete to win a slalom race aside from Shiffrin. And although the Slovakian is happy to be on the podium, it’s hard for her to mask her frustration. She wants to win, she wants to beat Shiffrin, and she will do her best to make that happen at some point this season.
“Second run I tried to go full gas because I was really close after first run, close to Mikaela. I had a little mistake, and she was again, in front [of me]. Always, it’s good to be second and good to be on the podium again. But you know, if you are still second, you want to do one step more. We have a lot of races ahead and I will try,” said Vlhova. “It’s motivation for me that she is still in front of me. We are close. I think it is good for her and also for me because she push me to my limit and I think I push her. So it’s always a good fight with her. I’m happy to [race] her, because maybe if I am without Mikaela Shiffrin I would not be as fast this year.”
Frida Hansdotter was also hoping to return to the top of the podium with a near perfect second run. Hansdotter has podiumed in the World Cup slalom 33 times. In Killington, she broke the record for the oldest woman to finish on a slalom podium in the World Cup. On Saturday, she broke that record again, having just turned 33 on the 13th of December.
American Paula Moltzan, representing the University of Vermont, also had a remarkable day in Courchevel. In Killington, Moltzan earned her first World Cup points after finishing 17th in the slalom. In Courchevel, the 24-year-old snagged her first top 15 finish after powering through a few mistakes at the top of the course and skiing the fourth fastest second run.
“We already saw her skiing was really good in Killington. And she always has this style that is really athletic,” said fellow American, Mikaela Shiffrin. “Today I was watching her second run and especially where I started to be faster, I was watching her and thinking ‘that was amazing’. She was smooth, she was accelerating, she was calm and really good with her discipline and everything. And that’s super cool to see and I’m excited for her.”
Before the end of the year, the women will compete in giant slalom and slalom in Semmering, Austria, the weekend of December 28th and 29th. Then they kick off the January block with a city events in Oslo, Norway January 1st, and Zagreb, Croatia January 5th-6th.
Editor’s note: a previous version of the story incorrectly stated that this was Shiffrin’s first slalom win of the season. It is her third.
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA): 1:36.72 – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4. Wendy Holdener (SUI): +1.14 – Head/Head/Head
7. Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE): +1.88 – Head/Head/Head
9. Chiara Costazza (ITA): +2.34 – Dynastar/Dynastar
For complete FIS results, click here.