Mikaela Shiffrin 3rd in World Cup super-G, Goggia wins in Switzerland
Shiffrin announces schedule change
Mikaela Shiffrin’s march to a fourth consecutive World Cup championship continued on Saturday but will take a different path this season.
Shiffrin finished third, another outstanding speed result in a chain of four, in the St. Moritz, Switzerland, World Cup super-G behind Italy’s Sofia Goggia and Italy’s Federica Brignone.
After Saturday’s race, though she made an announcement via Twitter of her plans for racing in the next few weeks.
In part, she wrote, ” I’ve been asked if I’m skiing the parallel (slalom event)— obviously it’s not an *easy* decision, but I’m opting out of the race tomorrow…”
Instead, she is swapping out Sunday’s parallel slalom for some speed events — a downhill and alpine combined — next weekend in Val d’Isere, France. Shiffrin will race in Tuesday’s giant slalom in Courcheval, France, as scheduled.
Surprise or not?
This is not entirely surprising, and, then again, it is. This is the only season in a four-year cycle that does not have a FIS Alpine World Ski Championships or an Olympics. That means that the 42 scheduled events on the World Cup don’t need to be arranged around a two-week block for those aforementioned competitions.
With this is in mind, Shiffrin had already hinted at changing her schedule to accommodate more speed events in 2019-2020.
Yet at the same time, it’s surprising to see her say no to a parallel slalom because she is money in these events. Keeping in mind that city events are parallel slaloms by another name, Shiffrin has won five of her last six parallel slaloms/city events and finished second in the sixth.
Perhaps, this is was her plan the entire time. Perhaps, things changed after the Levi, Finland, slalom, which Shiffrin won, while her archrival in the discipline, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, DNF’d. That represented a 100-point swing in the slalom-points standing.
Shiffrin, the winner of six of the last seven globes in the discipline, has already won the first two slaloms of the season Levi and Killington, Vermont, for 200 points.
That’s a 90-point lead over Sweden’s Anne Swenn Larsson in second place. Norway’s Nina Haver-Loeseth is third with 90 points and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener and Vlhova are tied for fourth with 80.
Mathematically speaking, Shiffrin can take the race off and still lead slalom as long as Larsson doesn’t win Sunday. Even then, Shiffrin trails by 10 points, not exactly an insurmountable lead.
However, it plays out, Shiffrin has shown during nearly the last two years that she knows what she’s doing with her schedule. After entering too many events in the ramp-up to the 2018 Olympics and struggling, she learned from the experience.
After the 2018 Olympics, she’s started 40 times between the World Cup and the 2019 worlds, winning 24 of those races and her “worst” finishes have been 10th and ninth in Lake Louise, Alberta, downhills.
Fun with numbers
By finishing third during Saturday’s super-G, Shiffrin maintained her “double lead” over Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg. Shiffrin continues to top the points, 532-261.
Yes, it’s ridiculous that Shiffrin has double the points of her closest pursuer. A closer look at the numbers, though, is illustrative. Rebensburg leads the super-G with 126 points, a win in Lake Louise and 10th on Saturday.
That said, Shiffrin, who specializes in tech, is sixth in super-G with 86 points. She’s not far behind Rebensburg in that discipline.
Looking ahead, Courcheval is a happy place for Shiffrin. She’s won her last five starts there dating back to Dec. 19, 2017 (two wins in giant slalom and slalom as well as a parallel victory).
Shiffrin hasn’t been to Val d’Isere since Dec. 22, 2013, when she finished eighth in a giant slalom. It will be interesting to see her in downhill. More exciting is probably the combined a week from Sunday.
Even in the modern format of the combined with one technical run instead of two, the discipline favors technical skier. Given that Shiffrin has established herself as a decent slalomer, it’s going to be fun to see what she can do in this race.
Adding to the favorable conditions next weekend is the modern combined is one speed race and one tech, the former not necessarily being a downhill. The Val d’Isere combined will be a run of super-G (better for Shiffrin) and slalom (Shiffirn’s wheelhouse.)
Primarily due to scheduling, Shiffrin has won just one combined in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, on Feb. 26, 2017, as well as silver in South Korea.