Freud: With 5 wins, does Shiffrin shoot for history? (column)
December 12, 2018
So what do we think the rest of the women's World Cup tour is thinking right about now?
At the rough quarter-pole of the season — nine of 38 events have been completed — and Eagle-Vail's Mikaela Shiffrin has a 393-point lead.
Since wins are worth 100 points, madame has nearly a four-race lead as of Thursday, Dec. 13.
Here are some other scary thoughts:
• Shiffrin is 3-for-3 in slaloms this season.
• Were the season to end today, she'd win the super-G globe.
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• The slalom queen is ranked fifth in the downhill points.
• Switzerland's Michelle Gisin is the only other racer, not named Shiffrin, on tour with points in all four disciplines contested to date. Gisin is still in second, by the way, 393 points behind Shiffrin.
• Even with a 393-point lead, the remaining schedule of the season favors her. There are only 13 speed events left in 2018-19, while there are 15 tech events (giant slalom, slalom and two city events) still to be contested, not to mention two combineds.
Keep in mind, she's won her last two city events during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. She also won the only combined contested last year on the World Cup and captured silver in the event during the Olympics.
Good luck, everyone, in trying to catch her.
It seems that — knock wood; I just knocked wood, as I typed this — Shiffrin is on her way to her third World Cup title in a row.
So what next?
• What can Shiffrin do in the giant slalom? Thirty-four of her 48 World Cup wins are in slalom and GS is the logical progression. I keep waiting for her to bust out in the discipline.
In fairness, it's not like she's been a slouch in GS. She finished third in 2015 in the World Cup standings, followed by 21st (knee injury in 2016), second and third. This year, she is standing fourth, having taken third in Soelden, Austria, and fourth in Killington, Vermont.
• How does Shiffrin balance speed and tech? We've often talked about speed as bonus points in her quest for the World Cup championship. Last year, she would have won handily without her 284 downhill and super-G points, still beating Switzerland's Wendy Holdener, 1,489-1,168.
The schedule starts to get condensed with the Val d'Isere, France, speed events getting rescheduled to Val Gardena, Italy, at the beginning of next week. Shiffrin has understandably bowed out of the Italian downhill and super-G with seven tech events looming from Dec. 21 to Jan. 8.
Does she eye the weekend of Jan 17-20 in Cortina, Italy, for a return to speed? It's the first of two consecutive speed weekends — Garmisch, Germany, follows. She has three top 10 finishes in four starts in speed events in Cortina, so it sticks to her pattern of doing speed in places where she's had success.
By comparison, she's never run in Garmisch.
• And Garmisch is cutting it pretty tight with the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Are, Sweden, from Feb. 5-17.
There she'll be going for a four-peat in the slalom. She's also the defending GS silver-medalist. Does she add combined? Does she give it a go in speed? Combined is more likely.
With three World golds, Shiffrin has already surpassed Lindsey Vonn in that category. Ted Ligety is the top American with five wins at the championships.
A fourth gold ties Shiffrin with all-time greats Liechtenstein's Hani Wenzel, Slovenia's Tina Maze and Sweden's Pernilla Wiberg. Anne-Marie Moser Proell (Austria) and Janica Kostelic (Croatia) are sitting in a tie for fifth with five World golds on the all-time list.
Fun with numbers
Given Shiffrin's hot start — five wins so far this season — some of the following is very realistic and some, perhaps, dreaming.
• Currently, Shiffrin is tied with Switzerland's Vreni Schneider for second place in all-time women's World Cup wins in slalom. Austria's Marlies Schild leads with 35. It's not a leap to see Shiffrin take over this mark.
• Shiffrin won 12 times last season and posted 11 victories in 2016-17. The record is Schneider with 14 in 1988-89. With five wins in December, and more tech events than speed left and two city events, glorified parallel giant slalom races, it's more reachable than one thinks.
With seven slaloms remaining, suppose Shiffrin wins four, not in any way an outrageous thought. There are six more GS races: Let's put her down for two. (Again, not a reach.) There are two city events, which would make 13 wins. That means all she needs to do is win one of two combineds and one speed event (out of the 13 remaining), and she's at 15.
Yes, easier said than done, but this hypothetical doesn't require drinking crazy juice.
• Two more magic numbers: 2,000 and 2,414. Hermann Maier scored 2,000 points, the men's record, in 1999-2000. Maze had 2,414 in 2012-13. (By the way, Vonn's best was 1,980 in 2012.) Shiffrin piled up 1,773 last year.
Maze's 2,414 is probably out of reach. During 2012-13, Maze won "only" 11 times, but she had 24 podiums and 31 top 10s in the 35 events of that season. Given that A) Maze was utterly ridiculous that season and B) Shiffrin won't enter every event this season, 2,414 is very unlikely.
Maier's 2,000? That's in the ball park.
People, we're seeing history, which is awesome, as long as you're not one of those racers trying to chase Shiffrin.
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