Gold in hand, Mikaela Shiffrin gears up for worlds GS and slalom
That was a show, people
So, what I miss? Anything happen at worlds the last two days while I was off?
Yes, Mikaela Shiffrin won the Alpine combined gold medal at worlds, but she did it without her pedal on the gas during the super-G portion of the race.
Rewatching the combined super-G, Shiffrin took it easy in comparison to the line she took during Thursday’s stand-alone super-G, in which she won a bronze. Nonethleless, Shiffrin was just 0.06 seconds behind first-run leader Italian Federica Brignone, and that’s cuing up the music for Dandy Don.
Game over, people, going into the slalom.
We can talk about the number of worlds medals Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn have — Shiffrin passed Vonn on Monday. We can talk about this being her sixth gold at worlds, something which has historical implications.
Here’s the real meaning in a hypothetical news conference after Monday’s combined that would never happen because Shiffrin doesn’t roll this way.
Worlds giant slalom
First run, 2 a.m., Olympic Channel, Peacock
First-run replay, NBCSN, 4:30 a.m.
Second run, 5:30 a.m., NBCSN, Peacock
“I’m still the best skier in the world, ladies, I may be taking essentially a gap year this season, but I can still roll you all. Enjoy the race wins, the globes and the other trinkets while you can. Oh, yeah, and I’m probably bringing the house during the GS and slalom later this week.”
Shiffrin is not the Larry Bird style of athlete who walks into the locker room before the 3-point competition at the All-Star Game and says, “Which one of you is going to finish second?” She lets her skiing do the talking, but she just sent a warning shot across the skiing world’s bow.
Does she get on a roll and smash the field in that GS and slalom? She doesn’t probably sweep this week because three golds in one worlds is really rare air. She probably wants the GS gold because it’s the missing medal of her collection. She also most likely wants the slalom for the five-peat. The latter is starting to look more likely.
Bigger picture? She’s going to come out of the other side of this, just fine, thank you. In the assorted post-race interviews, Shiffrin seemed to be having fun with her skiing — adding speed before worlds may have served as a pick-me-up — and just generally in a good place.
Since there are times you think you’re never going to come out the other end from a devastating loss, let’s celebrate it.
Again, the Austrians take world championships far too seriously — in 2015 when the nation did not place a racer in the Top 10 in the men’s downhill here, an Austrian minister declared the moment to be “a national disaster.” And here we thought the fall of Hapsburgs and the Anschluss fell in that category more neatly.
Vincent Kriechmayr, whose first World Cup win came at the Birds of Prey in 2017, swept the super-G and the downhill. On a serious note, Kriechmayr is one of only three men to sweep speed at worlds. The others are Herman Maier in 1999 at Birds of Prey — we remember that — and Bode Miller 2005 in Bormio, Italy.
Marco Schwarz won the combined. (How many times, by the way, do we need to say that tech racers win combis?) The Austrian men are dominating in Cortina, Italy. Can France’s Alexis Pinturault break up an Austrian male sweep of the traditionally contested events — disregarding the team or the parallel events — at worlds?
We just ask because Schwarz is the favorite in Sunday’s slalom. Pinturault seems like a non-Austrian who can win in GS on Friday.
Host Italy is struggling. We know the feeling. In 1999, the Americans got a goose egg for their troubles when the worlds came here for the second time. And, let’s face it we were kinda getting nervous as 2015 proceeded. Yes, Vonn won a bronze in the downhill early at Beaver Creek, but it wasn’t until the last Friday and Saturday of the championships that Ted Ligety and Mikaela went. Then all exhaled.
Sofia Goggia breaking her leg one week before worlds hurt the Italians in their speed quest. She was the favorite in the downhill. Yet after all this woe, do remember that Marta Bassino goes in the GS on Thursday. While, of course, we’re rooting for Shiffrin, the smart money is on Marta.
Norway has zero medals. This is strange to see as the Fighting Vikings are a traditional power at this event. On the other hand, everyone from Norway, including regular citizens, were injured this year on the World Cup. Even in retirement, we think Aksel Lund Svindal broke his leg.
It’s just not Norway’s year. Maybe, the country is still reeling from Will Ferrell being angry at them?
Team USA? Doing just about as expected. With Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Tommy Ford out, the team’s best medal chance not named Mikaela Shiffrin was Breezy Johnson. She finished ninth, a solid showing after missing this event in 2019.
Paul Moltzan finished fourth in the parallel slalom on Tuesday, but as goes Shiffrin, so does America.
See you all (virtually) Thursday morning.