Mikaela Shiffrin becomes fifth American to win overall World Cup title | VailDaily.com
Austin Colbert
The Aspen Times

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Mikaela Shiffrin becomes fifth American to win overall World Cup title

Most ski racers have to win their globes on the slopes in the heat of competition. Mikaela Shiffrin, on the other hand, was able clinch one of hers from bed.

When Slovenia's Ilka Stuhec, a speed specialist, opted out of Saturday's slalom race at the World Cup Finals in Aspen, it clinched the overall World Cup title for Shiffrin, Eagle-Vail's 22-year-old superstar.

"My mom walked into my room and I had just woken up from a nap and she said, 'Oh, congratulations, the overall is yours,'" Shiffrin said after Saturday's slalom, which she took second in. "It didn't seem like a real thing. I don't know; it's odd to say I won something in ski racing when I wasn't actually out on the hill. So it feels a little more real today. It will feel more real tomorrow when I'm actually holding it."

While Shiffrin does have four slalom globes in five seasons, including this year, this is her first overall globe. She had it well in hand even before Stuhec stepped aside, as Shiffrin's then 198-point lead meant Stuhec would have had to win both weekend technical races without Shiffrin finishing in the points either day.

As it turned out, a sleepy Shiffrin didn't even need to roll out of bed.

"It means a lot to me," Shiffrin said. "I can only say that because it's been a dream since I was so young. I can't tell you how I actually feel about it right now. It's really hard to put those feelings into words. Definitely good though."

Shiffrin has long had the hunger to go after the overall title, but she's also had a lot of self-doubt. One of the best technical ski racers of all time, athletes often have to dip into other disciplines to go for the overall — in Shiffrin's case, super-G or downhill.

She dipped her toes into each event this season, taking 13th in a Dec. 3 downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, and taking fourth in a Jan. 29 super-G in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. But really it's been her dominance in slalom that separated her from the pack.

"I remember when Tina Maze had her big season and she said to me at the end, 'Don't do every event. It's so exhausting,'" Shiffrin said, referring to the now-retired 2013 overall champion from Slovenia. "And I was like, 'But that's what I want to do.' Now a couple years later I can understand what she means. I didn't even ski in every race this year and I feel the fatigue. So it's a tough balance. It's been amazing to be able to succeed at that this year."

Shiffrin has 11 wins this season, six of which were in slalom. She has 31 career World Cup victories.

Shiffrin locked up the slalom globe last week with a win in Squaw Valley, California. She finishes the year with 840 points, while second place Veronika Velez Zuzulova of Slovakia had 565 points.

Ever the competitor, Shiffrin still feels she left a lot on the table. There certainly was disappointment, even if she did her best to hide it, about taking second to Slovakia's Petra Vlhova in Saturday's slalom in Aspen. But she also feels that heartache will disappear when she gets to hoist the overall globe today.

"I had another goal this season that I wasn't able to accomplish, which was to win every single slalom. And I don't know if that will ever be done or if I'll be able to do it, but that's the kind of ambition that I have," Shiffrin said. "There is a lot of people that go into making a champion, or somebody who can win these races. I've had an amazing career so far, but it's not my own success. It's the success of everybody who's been able to give me something to learn along the way."

Shiffrin will wrap up her season today with the women's giant slalom. The overall globe presentations will take place after the race.

Shiffrin will be the fifth American to win an overall globe and the first since Lindsey Vonn in 2012. Other overall winners include Phil Mahre, Tamara McKinney and Bode Miller.

"Mikaela's got the whole package, where she's worked hard and loves what she does," McKinney told The Associated Press from Aspen. "That's at the core of it. It's been really exciting to watch."

acolbert@aspentimes.com