On Saturday Mikaela Shiffrin fought for one last slalom win before officially accepting her sixth slalom crystal globe. Having already clinched the title, Shiffrin was able to truly focus on her skiing during Saturday’s race, without worry of what could happen if she didn’t end up on the top step of the podium.
After her first run, she sat in second behind Wendy Holdener by 0.28 seconds. In true Mikaela Shiffrin fashion, she did not give up the fight and pushed hard to make up the deficit. Her run was not flawless – she made a few mistakes – but her performance was just enough to pull the win out from under Holdener by seven hundredths. The remaining women in the top of the field did not come close to touching Holdener or Shiffrin’s time. Third place finisher Petra Vlhova finished 1.20 seconds off of Shiffrin’s combined time of 1.48.15, and 1.13 off of Holdener. At the end of the day, Vlhova remained the runner-up in the slalom overall standings, and Holdener held on to her position in third.
“There were some really wild spots in that run and it’s a challenging hill. The bottom is really steep, it’s challenging technically, so I was trying to push it. I had nothing to lose,” said Shiffrin.
Looking back on the season as a whole, Shiffrin says she would rate her season as about as good as it could be. Not only did she total a record number of 16 wins in a single season, she now has a whopping 40 slalom wins under her belt, tying her with the legendary Ingemar Stenmark for the record of most World Cup slalom wins in the history of the sport.
“A huge part of [my success] was balancing which races I was gonna do and having the courage to say I’m not gonna race,” said Shiffrin. “After the first two super-G races this season we were thinking, maybe we should do every super-G and see what’s possible. And we all said as a team, no that’s too much, we need to keep our heads grounded and focus on what the real goals are.”
On Sunday, in her final race of the season, Shiffrin looks to win one more title in the giant slalom. She currently leads the standings by 97, just enough to make the win seem tangible, but also just short of making her entirely comfortable. The only things standing in her way of the title are herself, and Petra Vlhova. But if Shiffrin can stick to her guns, ski clean, and finish, the globe is hers.
“I don’t expect to have a lot of nerves tomorrow if it’s a day like today, beautiful weather where it’s just a pleasure to be out here,” Shiffrin speculated. “The season was, by every single measure, successful more than I could ever dream. So at this point, all I can do is smile and try and put out two good runs of GS skiing.”
In addition to Shiffrin’s historic performances, Saturday’s slalom landmarked another major event in the history of the sport, the final slalom race of Olympic gold medalist Frida Hansdotter. In the last seven years, Hansdotter has been the only other female athlete to win the slalom globe while competing against Shiffrin.
Now, at the age of 33, Hansdotter has decided to end her 15-year World Cup career and chase other pursuits. Decked out in all pink, a customized Swedish race suit accented by pink Bliz goggles, pink Leki poles, all the way down to a pink manicure, Hansdotter finished strong in fifth, just behind her teammate, Anna Swenn Larsson.
“I came to a point after World Champs where I felt I am ready to get on a new chapter in life. I feel happy, it feels like a really good decision,” said Hansdotter. “It’s been a good fight, and I will for sure miss it but I feel good.”
The PyeongChang Olympic gold medalist and 2016 slalom overall champion has been a leader of the Swedish team for the entirety of her career. First competing against Marlies Schild in the slalom, then taking on Shiffrin and Vlhova, and still remaining in the top of the field. When asked about the legacy she hopes to leave behind, Hansdotter became emotional.
“I hope when you look back on my career that you see a lot of happiness and that I did this with a lot of joy,” said Hansdotter as tears filled her eyes. “Follow your heart, I would say.”
The women will compete in their final giant slalom races of the season on Sunday alongside the men, who will be competing in the final slalom races of the season.
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA): 1.48.15 – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Wendy Holdener (SUI): +0.07 – Head/Head/Head
- Petra Vlhova (SVK): +1.20 – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE): +1.58 – Head/Head/Head
- Frida Hansdotter (SWE): +1.89 – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Bernadette Schild (AUT): +2.30 – Head/Head/Head
- Katharina Liensberger (AUT): +2.39 – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Kristin Lysdahl (NOR): +2.43 – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Katharina Truppe (AUT): +3.60 – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Nastasia Noens (FRA): +4.05 – Salomon/Salomon
For full FIS results, click here.