Mikaela Shiffrin third in super-G at world championships, tying Lindsey Vonn record
Medal No. 8 for Mikaela
Mikaela Shiffrin can apparently still ski super-G.
After more than a one-year layoff from the discipline, Shiffrin finished third in the long-awaited opener of the 2021 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships on Thursday morning in Cortina, Italy.
Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami, the pre-race favorite, captured the gold, ahead of teammate Corinne Suter. Shiffrin’s bronze is the eighth world champs medal of her career and that ties her with Lindsey Vonn for most medals at the biennial event by an American.
U.S. Ski Team Twitter saved us some time by counting up the 382 days since Shiffrin last competed in a speed event — winning the super-G on Jan. 26, 2020, in Bansko, Bulgaria. Of course, her world turned upside down about a week later and then came COVID-19, a limited offseason and her decision to focus on just giant slalom and slalom in the build-up to worlds.
The bigger news is that Shiffrin finished only 0.47 seconds behind Gut-Behrami despite a major mistake in her run.
When you watch the run, Shiffrin just takes a little bit of a wrong line skiing onto a flat just before the fourth-to-last gate, which she barely made. (The video’s only 1 minute, but if you’re in a rush, as Shiffrin was, go to the the 40-second mark.) Shiffrin had been in the green by as much as exactly 1 second. The last interval of the course cost her 6-tenths of a second.
Shiffrin went into the hot seat at the finish, but the bobble turned her medal from gold to bronze. Gut-Behrami beat Suter by 0.34 seconds and Shiffrin by 0.47.
“It’s a disappointment not to win gold. But after a year of not starting in super-G and some really, really good training in the last two weeks, I was able to ski the way that I wanted to. Even when I made a mistake, I still felt good about my skiing,” Shiffrin said to the Associated Press.
“I thought the plan I had from inspection would be the fastest, but I didn’t know if I could execute everything. And in the end, I executed like 98%.”
That is worlds medal No. 8 for Shiffrin in her fifth world champs for Shiffrin. She has five gold (four in slalom and the 2019 super-G), one silver (2017 GS) and two bronzes (2019 GS and Thursday).
Not that the U.S. media ever stirs up anything between the two Vail ski godesses, but Vonn also has eight — two gold (2009 Val d’Isere, France, downhill and super-G), three silver (2007 and 2011 downhill and 2007 super-G) and three bronze (2015 super-G at Beaver Creek and 2017 and 2019 downhill).
Bigger picture, Shiffrin has to feel pretty good about her skiing in general that she did so well after a long pause. That’s particularly relevant with the super-combined as the next dance on Shiffrin’s card at worlds on Monday. FIS hasn’t released start times yet, but we’re assuming sometime early morning here in Colorado.
The worlds combined is super-G and slalom. Not that we’re looking ahead, but Thursday, Shiffrin had the fastest super-G time of a racer with significant recent slalom experience.
Gut-Behrami will shoot for her second gold of this worlds, but she hasn’t been in the points in slalom since December 2016. Suter is a pure speedster. While the combined is inherently unpredictable, Shiffrin was 0.42 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin, the 2018 Olympic combined champion, 44-hundredths ahead of Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, Mikaela’s chief rival in the slalom, and 0.77 in front of Italy’s Federica Brignone, who is having a terrific year. The italian has to be on the radar screen on home snow.
Past performance doesn’t guarantee future results, but we like Shiffrin’s chances were she to have a 0.42-second lead going into the slalom portion on Monday’s combined.
Friday is a training day for downhill. Action resumes with the women’s downhill on Saturday and the men on Sunday. Start time is 5 a.m. Mountain time both days with the Olympic Channel and Peacock Premium delivering the video from Cortina.