Mikaela Shiffrin, three-time World Champion in slalom, has now earned her fourth World Championship title with Tuesday’s win in super-G in Are, Sweden. The slalom queen has had an unprecedented speed season. She is currently undefeated in the super-G races she has chosen to compete in since her first win in Lake Louise at the beginning of the season.
The opening race of the World Championships was the tightest race the women’s circuit has seen thus far in the 2018/19 season. The women packed into the top of the field, leaving little to no room for error if they wanted to make the podium. Shiffrin was able to pull out a win by two-hundredths of a second over reigning Olympic downhill champion, Sofia Goggia. Third place finisher, Corine Suter, fell 0.05 seconds out, closely followed by Viktoria Rebensburg, finishing 0.07 seconds behind Shiffrin, in fourth place. Federica Brignone finished tenth, 0.54 seconds back from Shiffrin, which could have been a podium result in some of the other races the women have seen earlier in the season.
“I don’t think this is gonna sink in for a long time. This is crazy. But it’s a really tight race, I mean seven hundredths to fourth place? I mean, c’mon,” said Shiffrin. “Sometimes it’s tough, sometimes these races are really tough, and disappointing for many even though all these girls deserve to win the race. That’s such a small difference, it’s like nothing.”
Shiffrin’s win is her 14th of the season, putting her just behind Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider for the record of most wins in a single season. Schneider has held the record at 14 World Cup wins (15 including her World Championship giant slalom win in Vail) since 1989. If Shiffrin’s other races go well during World Championships and the remaining World Cup races, (and they just might, seeing as she is a technical specialist), the 23-year-old could make alpine history. So far, Shiffrin and her team have excelled at finding the perfect balance between risk and reward when it comes to maintaining energy throughout a tough schedule, steering away from injury, and seeking the winning line.
“I was taking a lot of risk, and in inspection, all of my coaches were doing an amazing job to say, ‘this is what you have to do to carry your speed’. I knew what the winning line was gonna be, I just didn’t know if I could do it. You had to be really aggressive, but you also had to be a little bit smart in some spots,” said Shiffrin. “I was quite nervous in the starting gate and my coach, I think he could see that and was like, ‘remember this is fun, super-G is a little bit extra, it’s the icing on the cake. So just enjoy it, let’s see a smile here. This is fun, just have fun.’ And that was the perfect thing to say because at the end I was able to do that.”
Goggia looked iffy in the finish, shaking her head and her hands as if she knew that the run of her season was still out there, and she hadn’t quite been able to ski to her full potential. Coming back from an ankle break early in the season, she has worked hard to meet her goal of competing in the World Championships. She’s finished her first race in Are, but after Tuesday she is still seeking a win.
“If there was something that really motivated me the last three months with the injury, it was to be here and now. And now that I’m here, I just want to enjoy. So this morning I got up and I said to myself, “No matter how it goes, you need to be really conscious and well aware of what you did, of every little step you made in this month, just to be here. So it doesn’t matter how it goes, it’s a success already,'” said Goggia. “I’m surprised of the result but not of how I’m skiing, because I’m feeling like I am not 100% of what I can do. I’m just well aware of who I am, what I did, and what I want to do.”
Vonn Crashes in Penultimate Race of her Career
To add to the significance of Tuesday’s super-G, for the last time, the two greatest female skiers the United States has ever seen stood side by side in the start gate. Shiffrin ran in bib 15, followed by Lindsey Vonn in bib 16. In the last super-G race of her career, Vonn busted through a red panel, fell, lost her right ski, and tumbled into the safety netting, shocking the crowd and Goggia, and Shiffrin, both of whom had been watching as they changed the leader seat.
“I came through the finish, I saw that I had the green light by two hundredths nonetheless, and I had this crazy, happy, emotional feeling. Then I turned around and watched one of my teammates and one of the big inspirations in our sport, also skiing fast and skiing with a lot of aggression have this big crash, which looks like it’s on the edge of disaster. And I think everybody is really relieved that she was able to stand up and ski down,” said Shiffrin.
“I was charging you know, I wanted to lay it all on the line,” Vonn told NBC in the finish. “The light went out right before I started and I didn’t have the right lenses on, and I didn’t see the piece of terrain right exactly the way that I should have, and my skis kind of hooked up and I went straight through the panel. Then I don’t know what happened, I hit my head and I’m going to have a huge shiner. I’m too old to be crashing that hard. It’s just time to be done. It’s like my body is not doing what my mind is telling it to anymore and I can’t be taking these kinds of risks anymore and crashing that hard.”
Recently, Vonn announced that the races in Are would be her last. After a long, successful career, she had hoped to have had one last winning season. Her goal was to get five more wins under her belt, just enough to break Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 World Cup wins. Then injury befell the American legend while training at Copper Mountain in Colorado, a torn LCL and three fractures. Albeit less severe than some of the injuries Vonn has endured before, her knees can no longer handle the taxing force brought on by a speed course, and she’s had to accept that maybe five more wins are just too far out of reach.
“You know, I feel like my tears are dried up. I literally can’t cry anymore. But, I’ve accepted the position that I’m in,” said Vonn. “I’ve been knocked down so many times, I always pick myself back up. But now it’s time to leave this ring and go into a different arena. Hopefully, I won’t cry too much more this week. I’m really trying to enjoy it.”
Her teammate, Laurenne Ross, also crashed through a panel and tumbled into the safety netting. Following Vonn’s footsteps, Ross rose and skied into the finish. Alice Merryweather broke into the top 30 from bib 37 to take 22nd place.
Runner-up to the super-G overall title, Tina Weirather, also could not complete her run. Weirather currently sits 32 points behind Shiffrin in the overall super-G standings.
Next up on the women’s schedule is the Alpine Combined, to take place on February 8th. First run kicks off at 11:00 am CET. On February 9th, they will compete in the downhill, and Lindsey Vonn will take the final race of her career.
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA): 1:04.89 – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Sofia Goggia (ITA): + 0.02 – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Corine Suter (SUI): +0.05 – Head/Head/Head
- Viktoria Rebensburg: +0.07 – Stoeckli/Lange
- Nadia Fanchini (ITA): +0.14 – Dynastar/Lange
- Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR): +0.16 – Head/Head/Head
- Francesca Marsaglia (ITA): +0.24 – Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Ilka Stuhec (SLO): +0.26 – Stoeckli/Lange
- Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI): +0.48 – Head/Head/Head
- Federica Brignone (ITA): +0.54 – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
For full race results, click here.