After two relatively disappointing days of GS racing in Are, Sweden, Mikaela Shiffrin on Saturday got back to doing what she does best — skiing slalom and winning races.
There were some dramatically changing weather conditions throughout the second run. Some racers were greeted in the lower half of the course by dense, heavy, wet snow. Others, including Shiffrin and the top racers from the first run, faced fewer impediments.
With her fourth World Cup win of the season, Shiffrin takes much of the suspense out of next week’s slalom World Cup Final in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, locking up that title for a second straight season. The crystal globe will certainly go nicely with her Olympic gold medal earned in Sochi last month.
“My first win was, of course, amazing. It just seemed like such a perfect night to get a World Cup win. It was a dream come true and kind of the start of all of this, because in my mind I finally felt like I really could be a good ski racer at the World Cup level,” said Shiffrin. “I’m just really comfortable on slalom skis. It feels so easy to me when I’m loose and I let my skis go and it just seems like they find the finish for me and I don’t have to work so hard.”
The host nation of Sweden occupied the next three spots on the result sheet. Maria Pietilae-Holmner and Anna Swenn-Larsson rounded out the podium — the first of Swenn-Larsson’s career. Frida Hansdotter, second after the first run, was the sole threat to Shiffrin’s slalom title coming into the day, but a couple mistakes up top and cautious skiing down below bumped her out of contention for the globe — she finished fourth. For Pietilae-Holmner, it was a crusher of a second run with the fastest pace.
The soon-to-be-19-year-old Shiffrin skied like she’s been here before and knew just how much gas to give it the second run. In the final few gates, there was a brief hint of trouble, but she was able to make a seamless recovery to secure the win and the season title.
“It makes me a little bit proud and I must be doing something right with Mikaela. We’re all still thinking about what’s going to be her future,” said Shiffrin’s coach Roland Pfeifer, who set the second run. “It’s very challenging to make the next step. We need to be very inventive to even extend our gap a little bit more and get better and better. Mikaela is such an invaluable athlete for the U.S. Ski Team. She is the golden feet, so we really need to focus what we’re going to do with her. The whole thing makes me think about what I’m going to do next year to balance her.
Another racer who’s been here before, overall title contender Maria Hoefl-Riesch, did exactly what she needed to do — get a result. The German skied a conservative run to finish seventh and reclaim the lead in the overall that was briefly assumed by Anna Fenninger on Friday following back-to-back GS wins. Picking up 36 points on the day, Hoefl-Riesch bumped her up to 1,180 points in the standings, compared to 1,151 for Fenninger, who has not raced slalom since 2011. Exactly four races remain on the World Cup calendar, one per discipline.
Shiffrin wasn’t the only exciting result for the Americans: Resi Stiegler had to earn every inch of her season-best 14th-place finish. Sitting in 24th after the first run, the 28-year-old was not among those who benefited from a break in the weather. She muscled through dense, wet conditions — the snow caking on her goggles — for her best finish since Zagreb roughly one year ago.
It was a tough outing for Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon, fourth after the first run and appearing to be in the hunt for a good result with preferable conditions in the second, but a mid-run straddle ended her day short of the finish line.
“I said to myself that I was either going to win or go out and unfortunately it went the second way,” said Gagnon. “I’m skiing really well and the slalom is going well. It’s really encouraging knowing I have the speed. It was a bit frustrating the first 10 minutes afterwards but it’s a question of millimeters and it just didn’t go the right way. It’s part of slalom – we all know that.”
By Hank McKee
Women’s World Cup slalom, Are, Sweden, March 8, 2014
Equipment – skis/boots/bindings
1 Shiffrin, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
2 Pietilae-Holmner, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
3 Swenn-Larsson, Head/Head/Head
4 Hansdotter, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
5 Noens, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
6 Strachova, Head/Head/Head
8 Zettel, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
9 Maze, Stoeckli/Lange/Atomic
10 B. Schild, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
Women’s World Cup slalom, Are, Sweden, March 8, 2014. … It is the 28th of 32 races on the women’s schedule with just the four races from World Cup Finals remaining. … It is the seventh of eight scheduled slaloms. … It is the 89th World Cup race hosted by Are… the 26th slalom… 14th for women.
It is the eighth career World Cup win for Mikaela Shiffrin. … She is the first to win eight before turning 19. … Perrine Pelen and Janica Kostelic each won seven before turning 19. Shffrin will turn 19 on March 10. … It is her fifth slalom win of the season (including an Olympic gold medal). … matching the U.S. record for World Cup slalom wins (4) in a season she established last season.
It is the eighth career World Cup podium for Maria Pietilae-Holmner… her fourth of the season… third in slalom.
It is the first career World Cup podium for Anna Swenn-Larsson. … Four of her top-five results have come this season.
It is a season best World Cup result for Resi Stiegler.
Maria Hoefl-Riesch (seventh in race) maintains her lead of the World Cup overall standings with four races remaining, 1180 points to Anna Fenninger (did not race) with 1151. Tina Weirather (injured) is third with 943pts. … Shiffrin is sixth with 773pts and Marie-Michele Gagnon is tenth with 479pts.
Shiffrin leads the slalom standings 538-408 over Frida Hansdotter (fourth in race) and cannot be beaten for the crown… her second consecutive slalom globe.
Austria leads the women’s Nations Cup 5110-2657 over Switzerland. … Sweden is third with 2593pts. … The U.S. is sixth with 1645pts and Canada 11th with 768pts.
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|