Shiffrin posts fastest downhill training time in advance of World Cup finals
Season’s final four races will decide FIS Alpine ski World Cup overall globe
Somewhere out there, Europe’s “The Final Countdown” is blasting. It all comes down to this, folks.
Heading into the FIS Alpine ski World Cup finals in France, Mikaela Shiffrin has a 56-point lead over her Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova for the most prestigious annual prize in the sport. The final four races on the 37-event calendar — a downhill and super-G in Courchevel Wednesday and Thursday, and a slalom and giant slalom in Meribel Saturday and Sunday — will determine if the Edwards star will win her fourth overall globe or if Vlhova will nab a second straight.
Tying Lindsey Vonn for the most overall globes (four) by an American seems like a pleasant way to place the 2022 Olympics in the rear view mirror. It’s not that simple, though, according to Shiffrin’s camp.
“I think you can’t take the sting out of that experience in China,” Mike Day, one of Shiffrin’s coaches, told NBC Sports from France on Monday. “[The overall title] would have meaning, but, ultimately, I think the experience in China’s something that will be long lasting, and this is something separate from that.”
According to Day, Shiffrin’s team was so absorbed with excelling in those five individual Olympic events, three of which ended with a DNF, the overall title pursuit didn’t come into focus for him until he read of it in the press recently. Unlike her last title-winning season, a record-breaking 17-win 2018-2019 campaign wherein the 20-pound trophy was handily secured in advance of the final weekend, this one could come down to the final race of the season — Sunday’s giant slalom.
“It’s not necessarily the 17-win seasons that ultimately define you,” Day told NBC Sports. “It’s the ones that you really have to claw and fight.”
Each race winner this week will earn 100 points, with 80 to second, 60 to third, 50 to fourth and on down a descending scale through 15th place (this differs from non-finals races, where points are awarded through 30th place). That means 400 points are up for grabs, starting with Wednesday’s downhill.
Niether Vlhova or Shiffrin have placed in the top-15 in the event this year, but Shiffrin posted the top time on the Eclipse slope in Tuesday’s training run, 0.75 seconds ahead of Olympic downhill gold medalist Corinne Suter. Vlhova was ninth, 1.44 seconds behind the American.
Ski Racing Media reported that Shiffrin and her boyfriend, current men’s downhill discipline leader Alexander Aamodt Kilde of Norway, have been sharing scouting reports on the frighteningly fast track which boasts an average gradient of 30%, higher than the 27% of the Kitzbuehel’s legendary Streif.
“We’ve been trying to analyze it together – I told her to be thinking about not being satisfied with the speed she has because it’s a course where you can really tighten up the line and also be smart in places, where she is the best skier in the world,” Kilde told Brian Pinelli.
“It’s fun to see her execute the way that I’d also like to do it, so I’ll try again tomorrow.”
According to Kilde, the new Courchevel course is technical.
“It’s for sure a course that turns more than we’re used to, so have to find a good plan for tomorrow and try to stay in the line – that’s the most important thing,” Kilde told Ski Racing Media.
Thursday’s super-G is an event Shiffrin has a stronger track record in than Vlhova. When the event moves to Meribel for the technical disciplines, the 27-year-old Slovakian Olympic slalom gold medalist figures to be the favorite. It’s a shocking reality, especially considering Shiffrin won her 47th career slalom World Cup this January, the most ever in a single discipline for men or women. One could argue the final event — Sunday’s giant slalom (where Shiffrin is still mathematically eligible to claim the season title) — is the toughest one to call. And it could very well decide everything.
“It’s the final countdown.”
March 16 – Downhill (11:30 CET)
March 17 – Super-G (10:00 CET)
March 19 – Slalom (1st: 10:30 CET/2nd: 13:30 CET)
March 20 – Giant Slalom – (1st: 9:00 CET/2nd: 12:00 CET)
Mikaela Shiffrin, USA – 1,245
Petra Vlhova, SVK – 1,189
Federica Brignone, ITA – 931
Sofia Goggia, ITA – 851
Sara Hector, SWE – 742
Sara Hector, SWE – 522
Tessa Worley, FRA – 517
Mikaela Shiffrin, USA – 471
Petra Vlhova, SVK – 431
Marta Bassino, ITA – 276