Mikaela Shiffrin doesn’t win, and the world keeps spinning (column)
Here’s a question: Is it bigger news when Mikaela Shiffrin wins a World Cup slalom or does NOT win a World Cup slalom?
We actually debated this in the Vail Daily newsroom when laying out our Wednesday cover. To be clear, it’s not like the sky is falling when Shiffrin finishes second behind Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, an athlete who would likely be the best slalomer of this era were Mikaela not to exist, by a whopping 15-hundredths of a second, while still earning 80 World Cup points during Tuesday’s Flachau, Austria, slalom.
The idea that Shiffrin not winning perhaps is more newsworthy than winning is simply a product of her dominance, particularly in the slalom.
Her recent streak of seven slalom wins is only the tip of the iceberg. Shiffrin finished the 2012 calendar with a DNF in the Semmering, Austria, slalom. She started 2013 by winning a slalom on Jan. 4 in Zagreb, Croatia.
The 2013 Zagreb victory is the beginning of 51 World Cup slalom starts in which Shiffrin has:
- Won 37 times. Let’s stop a moment here — 37 wins in her last 51 World Cup starts. She is winning more than two-thirds of the slaloms she starts — 72.5 percent, to be precise. That’s just silly.
- Been on the podium — top 3 — 44 times. The reverse math is that only seven times in six years she has not been first, second or third in World Cup slalom in 51 outings.
- Finished in her “terrible” races eighth, 12th, seventh, fifth, fourth and with two DNFs. A reminder, by finishing in the top 30, Shiffrin is still earning World Cup points. By the way, she’s been in the top 10 in 48 of her last 51 starts.
None of these stats dating back to the start of 2013 include the 2014 Olympics (gold), the 2018 Olympics (fourth), and the 2013, 2015 and 2017 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships (three wins).
While the comparison is odious as they are different skiers, Shiffrin is dominating a discipline more than Lindsey Vonn did in downhill or super-G during her prime.
And with nine wins this season, Shiffrin has a shot at breaking Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider’s record of 14 wins in a World Cup season. (This is different than 15 wins during a calendar year, which she just did in 2018, tying Marcel Hirscher.) Just counting tech or tech-friendly events, there still three slaloms, four giant slaloms, two combineds and a city event left on the schedule.
The way she’s rolling going 6-for-10 during starts is not an outrageous prospect.
Because it really is almost news when she doesn’t win a slalom.
In other alpine news:
We’re excited to see Lindsey back. We’re bummed that St. Anton, Austria, is scrubbed because it’s getting 9 feet of snow because a) she could have used this weekend’s races to get back in form, and b) we can’t imagine 9 feet of snow.
On a serious note, Vonn’s won 12 times in Cortina, Italy, site of Jan. 19-20’s downhill and super-G. The next speed stop is Garmisch, Germany, where she’s won nine times.
And, if you’re looking to Worlds, well, she has six career wins in Are, Sweden, including two in GS. More pertinent, she won the downhill during World Cup finals last spring.
We do call bull-hooey on Vonn saying that Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 World Cup wins will not define her. (Vonn has 82.) It’s the reason she’s still going after her myriad injuries, including the 2013 Worlds, when her right knee exploded.
Way to go, Bryce
The 2018-19 men’s speed season has been a case of “hurry up and wait.” That said, give it up for Bryce Bennett. He seems to be making a move. In downhill, he’s finished 12th (Lake Louise, Alberta), ninth (Beaver Creek) and fourth twice in Italy at Val Gardena and Bormio.
The legendary stops of Wengen, Switzerland, and Kitzbuehel, Austria, await at the end of the month.
Before the duo, the men are in Adelboden, Switzerland, for a GS and a slalom, so let’s go Ted Ligety and Vail’s own River Radamus. The local got his first World Cup points last month by finishing 24th in Alta Badia, Italy.