BEAVER CREEK, Colo. – In the final ladies’ event of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, Mikaela Shiffrin did not disappoint fans who waited all week to watch her in her signature event, the slalom. She led after run one and held on to take her second consecutive world title, finishing 0.34 seconds ahead of perennial runner-up Frida Hansdotter and 0.77 seconds ahead of a resurgent Sarka Strachova.
It has been an exciting two days for the Americans after Ted Ligety defended his World Championship gold medal in giant slalom yesterday and then Shiffrin putting on a show once again today. The fan-packed stands and hillside were treated to a remarkable showing by the American teenager who demonstrated her nerves of steel and brought the American team its second gold and fifth medal of these home championships.
“It’s pretty crazy now that I think about it. It was just before my second run I was starting to convince myself how much I really wanted to win this race,” admitted Shiffrin. “Some of that was good, but then I was like stop it! Stop that! It’s about the process. It’s about the turns. So I kind of pulled myself together for this last bit. I’m happy. It’s nice to be in the green.”
Shiffrin led after run one on a turny, technical course, but the time gap was small over two of the fastest slalom skiers in the world, Hansdotter and Strachova. Shiffrin looked tentative out of the start on the second run, which was set with a much quicker tempo and had rewarded those athletes who risked the most, including the two who ran before her — Hansdotter sitting in the finish with the lead and Strachova in second. Shiffrin pushed out of the start and lost her 0.40-second advantage by the first interval and appeared to be giving the win to the Swede. But as she has done time and time again, she found her aggression and speed and was able to turn a 0.03-second deficit at the final interval into a 0.34-second advantage by the finish line.
“When I was at the beginning of my run I knew I was attacking but it was a little bit like a kind of conservative line. I knew I had to charge down here and try to use the groove a little bit. It seemed like people were taking it too conservative down here (on the bottom), so I think I made up a lot of time,” reflected Shiffrin. “But every single person I’ve seen so far (following the race), like 20 people, have said, ‘You’re killing me! You almost killed me!’ I’m like, it’s OK. It’s all under control.”
Hansdotter won her second consecutive World Championships medal after finishing third in Schladming in 2013. It is her 12th time finishing in the runner-up position in slalom over the course of her World Cup career. She skied a virtually flawless run and put the pressure on Shiffrin to deliver, but skied a bit too conservative on the bottom allowing Shiffrin to take advantage. Hansdotter leads the slalom World Cup standings over Shiffrin and today showed why she is tied with Swedish legends Pernilla Wiberg and Anja Paerson with two World Championship slalom medals.
“I’m super happy. I did two good runs, and Mikaela was hard to beat today. She was skiing so good, so I’m super happy with my silver medal,” said Hansdotter. “Schladming was my first time leading after first run, and it was a different situation for me. Today I felt more confidence at the start. But actually I was pretty nervous for the first run because everyone says you’re one of the favorites and it’s tough to have this pressure. But I’m happy that I took this medal.”
Bronze medalist Strachova made a name for herself at a young age as a big event skier when she won her first bronze medal in the 2005 World Championships in Santa Caterina before ever landing on a World Cup podium. She followed that up with two more World Championship medals — a gold in Are in 2007 and a silver in Val d’Isere in 2009. Her only two World Cup victories occurred in 2008 and 2009, both in Aspen. Then health problems delivered a blow for Strachova. A 2012 diagnosis of a benign brain tumor required surgery and left her doubting if she would be able to return to the sport, much less become competitive again. But she did come back and she came back big with her first podium in five years in December and then again today with her fourth World Championship medal.
“I had all the time the feeling that I should keep going, that I can be really fast again, that I can be on the top again. And I have such great support from my husband and from my team that it was a good decision. I’m really happy that I decided to continue,” said Strachova.
Canadian Erin Mielzynski has been on a bit of a comeback tour herself this season. After winning her one and only World Cup in 2012 and then following that up with a podium a year later, Mielzynski started putting pressure on herself and the DNFs started to pile up. Poor early season results pushed Mielzynski out of the top-30, but then she started to find her form again. She began to work her way back into the top group of slalom skiers and today she matched her best result of the season with a sixth-place finish, the best women’s slalom World Championship placing by a Canadian — ever.
“It’s been a tough couple of years. It’s been a lot of blows. I started the year tough, so a day like today is a big win for me and it’s exciting to come down into sixth. Any day in the top 15 is a good day,” said Mielzynski. “I was very nervous first run, but I found ways to kind of push them to the side and not really think about the result. Think about what I’m doing in my skiing, and that’s why I ski – it’s not the results. So I think that was an important step this year.”
Veronika Velez Zuzulova was within striking distance of the podium after winning the second run on a course set by her father. She moved from 10th on run one to ultimately end up fourth. Kathrin Zettel finished fifth for the best result of the day for the Austrians. It is the only women’s event the Austrian’s failed to medal in during these championships.
The results were mixed for the remaining four Americans competing. Fan favorite Resi Stiegler, who had been having a solid season after coming back from injury upon injury, was skiing without an ACL, after tearing it in a training run over a month ago. She tried to rehab and build up strength in her leg to be able to compete today before undergoing season-ending surgery, but did not have the confidence needed to be a contender and finished 35th on run one. Because of her injury she elected not to start run two and will unfortunately miss the remainder of the season.
“Having it happen again and again, that’s pretty difficult. For me, I know I can do it. Coming back isn’t the difficult part. It’s just wanting it so badly is pretty difficult because I want it so badly every single day. And it hasn’t been easy every single day,” said Stiegler. “That’s the hard part, reminding yourself that you do love it and that’s why you’re out there. And even if you’re not winning, it’s OK, because you do love skiing and that’s why you’re there.”
Paula Moltzan started first on the second run and skied to the ninth fastest time in the second leg to move up and finish 20th overall. It was a positive step in the right direction for one of the few members of the U.S. technical team. Hailey Duke and Megan McJames were the final two starters for the U.S. finishing 28th, and 38th, respectively.
The women return to World Cup action next weekend with a GS and slalom in Maribor, Slovenia.
Shiffrin will now return to Europe for the remainder of the World Cup season with some added confidence. She has three more slaloms left on the schedule to try and catch Hansdotter and win her third consecutive slalom globe. But for the long-term she hopes to find more consistency across both technical disciplines and bring her GS skiing up on par with slalom.
“I really hope that I can in the next couple of weeks, before our next race … get back to my GS and really try to take the next step because I feel like I’m so close. I feel pretty comfortable with my slalom,” said Shiffrin of her goals. “It’s nice to have the confidence … but I have to get there with my GS. So that’s kind of where I want to go.”
By Hank McKee
- Shiffrin, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Hansdotter, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Strachova, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Velez Zuzulova, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Zettel, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Mielzynski, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Thalmann, Head/Head/Head
- Maze, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
- Noens, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Gagnon, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
Women’s World Championship slalom, Beaver Creek, Colo., Feb. 14, 2015:
- It is the 10th of 11 events at the 2015 World Championships. … It is the 67th slalom in World Championship history. … The first was held in 1931, the first in the U.S. at Aspen in 1950. … The defending champion is Mikaela Shiffrin.
- It is the second gold medal for Mikaela Shiffrin in four World Championship races. … and her second straight championship slalom. She is just the third woman to win back-to-back World Championship slalom titles (Christl Cranz ’37, ’38 and ’39 and Janica Kostelic ’03, ’05). She is the first female skier to win two world titles before turning 20 since Erika Hess in 1982. She also won the Olympic gold medal in slalom last season.
- Winning margin is 0.34. … Top four skiers are within the same second. … Top six skiers within two seconds.
- It is the second World Championship medal for Frida Hansdotter who won bronze in slalom at Schladming 2013.
- It is the fourth World Championship medal for Sarka Strachova, each in slalom. … She won gold at Are 2007, silver at Val d’Isere 2009 and bronze at Santa Caterina 2005. … Those are the only four medals for the Czech Republic.
- It is a career best World Championship result in an individual race for Erin Mielzynski and the best ever Canadian result in a women’s slalom. … one better than Anne Heggtveit in 1954 and two better than Nancy Greene in 1966. … It is the second best World Championship result for Marie-Michele Gagnon who placed eighth in GS at Schladming in 2013. … It is the first career placing in a World Championship for Paula Moltzan and for Hailey Duke. … It is the second career placing in a World Championship for Candace Crawford, who was one placing better in the GS on Feb. 12. … It is the fourth placing in a World Championship race for Megan McJames.
- Medal count: Austria five gold, three silver, one bronze; Slovenia two gold, one silver; U.S. two gold, one silver, two bronze; Switzerland one gold, two bronze; Canada two silver; Sweden one silver, two bronze; Norway one silver; Germany one silver, France one bronze, Czech Republic one bronze.
|4||12||705287||VELEZ ZUZULOVA Veronika||1984||SVK||51.25||48.17||1:39.42||+0.94||6.87|
|34||55||35089||SIMARI BIRKNER Macarena||1984||ARG||55.67||52.20||1:47.87||+9.39||68.65|
|42||60||255367||VILHJALMSDOTTIR Helga Maria||1995||ISL||57.60||53.92||1:51.52||+13.04||95.34|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|49||67||35177||SIMARI BIRKNER Angelica||1994||ARG||58.25||58.25|
|50||69||175041||LEMGART Charlotte Techen||1993||DAN||58.33||58.33|
|51||71||255357||EINARSDOTTIR Freydis Halla||1994||ISL||58.69||58.69|
|61||89||175050||BERTHELSEN Nuunu Chemnitz||1996||DAN||1:03.75||1:03.75|
|Did not start 2nd run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|103||175048||MOE Lisa Christine Blunck||1996||DAN|
|96||955000||OETTL REYES Ornella||1991||PER|