Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin wins giant slalom, fourth globe

Win No. 60 for Mikaela

How’s that for a finale?

Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin brought down the curtain on the 2017-18 season in smashing fashion, capturing Sunday’s giant slalom at the World Cup finals in Soldeu, Andorra. With the latest victory in a seemingly endless parade of triumphs, the 24-year-old:

• Won her 17th World Cup race in a single season, tearing down the old record of 14.

• Clinched the giant slalom World Cup championship for the first time in her career. It’s her fourth crystal globe of the season as she had already won the overall, super-G and slalom as well.

• Logged the 60th World Cup win of her career.

• Finished the season with 2,204 points on the season, second all-time only to Slovenia’s Tina Maze’s legendary season of 2,414 points in 2012-13.

With the final snow just settling on the 2018-19 campaign, one does not want to rush to judgment. But … it is certainly one of the most dominating seasons in World Cup history. Is it the best season by an American ski racer? (One steps in a hornet’s nest there with comparisons to Lindsey Vonn.) Is it the best season ever? While Maze’s 2,414 points in 2013  didn’t fall, showing the enormity of that feat, Shiffrin’s 2018-19 season has a lot of compelling arguments.

One thing’s for sure, she stands atop the world.

“Yeah, I went for it,” Shiffrin said via the International Ski Federation Soundcloud. “When I woke up this morning, I was thinking, ‘OK I have a chance to win the GS globe today. It’s not finished. I want to ski a really good GS. I want to be aggressive. I want to take some risk. I want to earn the globe, not just ski to protect points. … I wanted to be proud of my skiing and I wanted to really deserve that. Here I am and it’s really incredible.”

A first for Shiffrin

All Shiffrin needed to do to wrap up her first giant-slalom season championship was finish in the top 15 on Sunday. She led by 97 points in the standings and essentially just needed to stay upright through two runs. Instead, she laid down the fastest morning run with a time of 1 minute, 9.74 seconds, leading Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg (1:10.33) and the surprise of the day New Zealand’s Alice Robinson (1:10.58).

Shifrrin’s season-long nemesis Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova predictably charged into third place and the New Zealander hung tough, recording the fastest second run. Yet, as has been her calling card all season, Shiffrin was up to the task. She had 3-tenths of a second to spare.

This GS title was the one for which she was waiting. She was understandably emotional when coming out with the globe during the post-race ceremonies.

“It feels like I’ve been dreaming about the giant-slalom globe for so long since before I was on the World Cup,” Shiffrin said on FIS’ Soundcloud. “… The slalom globe came, I don’t know how many times (six), but the GS globe was always something I was always working for but was never really able to be the really best GS skier. There was always somebody who was faster, somebody who was taking more risks, somebody who was better on their skis. There were many moments (during) the last eight years that I was thinking I would never get this GS globe, so there were a lot of emotions celebrating that.”

From 2015-18, she had been seventh, third, 21st (the season she tore her ACL), second and third in the GS standings, so this might be the favorite of her four globes this season.

On a really humorous and rare note, Shiffrin was the oldest racer on Sunday’s podium. New Zealands’s Robinson is 17 and Vlhova, 23, is three months to the day younger than Shiffrin.

“Am I the oldest? Am I older than Petra? You’re making me feel old here,” joke Shiffrin, who turned 24 on Wednesday.

The march to 17 (or 19)

With all the talk about 17 World Cup wins, and that is a new record for one season, there’s also the fact that Shiffrin actually won 19 times in 2018-19. The FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Are, Sweden, where she won the super-G and slalom and had a bronze medal in the giant slalom do not count toward that mark or her 2,204 World Cup points, second in history only to Maze.

Shiffrin, by plan, only started 26 of 35 World Cup events and 29 of 40, if one includes the five worlds races. In her 29 starts, she won 19 races, a winning percentage of 65.5. If Shiffrin were a baseball team, she would have won 106 games this year.

In those 29 starts, she was on the podium 24 times, and in the top five 28 times. Only once this season did she finish “worse” than fifth — a downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, where she was ninth. That’s 29 starts, no DNFs and all top 10 finishes.

Fun factoids

• Switzerland’s Pirmin Zubriggin (overall, downhill, super-G, GS and combined) is the only racer to win five globes in one season (1987). Shifrrin is just the seventh athlete in the history of the World Cup to win four and the first to do so with the combination of overall, super-G, GS and slalom.

Again, as one tries to answer the question, “Is this the best season ever?” — Jean-Claude Killy won four globes in one season — downhill, GS, slalom and overall. There was neither a super-G nor a combined globe in the first year of the World Cup. We’d like his chances in the super-G (not invented yet) and combined (not contested), but that’s good company.

• Only two women had won four globes in one season before Shiffrin — Vonn in 2010 and 2012 and Maze in 2013.

• Shiffrin is the fifth woman to win both giant slalom and slalom in the same season — Finland’s Tanja Poutiainen, Sweden’s Anja Parson, Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider and Lise-Marie Morerod (also of Switzerland).

• Shiffrin is the new record holder for women’s GS wins by an American with 10. Tamara McKinney, the beloved worlds combined champion in Vail in 1989, was the leader with nine.

• Shiffrin is only the third American to win a World Cup giant slalom championship. McKinney did it in 1981 and 1983, while Marilyn Cochran did so in 1969.


News and notes

Next up for Shiffrin. She’s off to Barcelona, Spain, for some R-and-R. She said in the post-race news conference that she’s been there several times, and wants to spend some time as a local, as well as do some shopping. In the men’s slalom on Sunday, France’s Clement Noel won, followed by Austria’s Manuel Feller and Switzerland’s Daniel Yule. Austria’s Marcel Hirscher finished 14th and has been musing about his possible retirement all week in Soldeu. Speaking of retirements, Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter and Germany’s Felix Neureuther raced their final races this week.

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