Shiffrin fourth in final World Cup tuneup
Worlds next for Mikaela
Does winning your final race before the world championships guarantee you victory at said world championships? France’s Tessa Worley certainly hopes so.
The French woman won the last technical race, a giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday, before the 2021 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships begin in Cortina, Italy, in two weeks.
Mikaela Shiffrin finished fourth in her final tuneup after leading after the first run. Worley took advantage of mistakes by Shiffrin and Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin to surge to victory. Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami, on a hot streak recently, and Italy’s Marta Bassino, the likely GS favorite in Cortina, rounded out the podium.
As The Associated Press helpfully noted, Shiffrin has a podium in only one of five GS starts this season, a win in Courchevel, France, last month. While she did miss the traditional discipline opener in Soelden, Austria, with a back issue, the tale of the tape in giant slalom for Shiffrin is 4-1-6-6-4.
And while the U.S. Ski Team’s twitter feed was excited — “FOURTH! Congrats @Mikaela Shiffrin!! Get ready, @cortina20201. … we’re coming for ya!” — Shiffrin was doubtless hoping, as she has all season, for a little more momentum in GS going into Cortina.
The $64,000 question?
So does winning your last event before worlds guarantee you victory at said worlds? The scientific conclusion is maybe.
In 2019, Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec DNFd in her downhill finale preceding worlds and won in Are, Sweden. Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener finished third in the only combined contested before she won the event in Are.
Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova tied for first with Shiffrin in the last GS in 2019 before the championships. Vlhova was the GS champion with Shiffrin in third.
As for Shiffrin, well, she won her last super-G (Cortina, Italy) and slalom (Maribor, Slovenia) in the wake of worlds. That said, Shiffrin won the first three World Cup super-Gs she entered before winning the speed event in Are, Sweden. Shiffrin was fourth in Soldeu, Andorra, in the World Cup finals that clinched her the globe. It was her only “loss” in super-G in 2018-19.
Shiffrin also carried momentum in her specialty in slalom. She had won consecutively in Maribor and Spindleruv Mlyn in the Czech Republic, leading up to Are 2019. She had also won 8-of-9 slaloms dating back to Jan. 28, 2018, before winning gold in Sweden.
The data seems to support that if a ski racer is on an epic run of winning 17 World Cups in a season, as Shiffrin was during the 2018-19 season, she’s probably going to win at worlds. Otherwise, it seems wide open.
Seriously, Bassino will be the favorite with 460 out of a possible 600 GS points, having won four times this season. Worley (336 points), Gisin (312), Italy’s Federica Brignone (282), Shiffrin (280), Gut-Behrami (259) and Vlhova (218) are all in the hunt.
The season continues this weekend with the women in Garmisch, Germany, for downhill and super-G. The ladies have a rare weekend off before worlds kick off with the women’s combined on Feb. 8, followed by their super-G on Feb. 9.
While Shiffrin has not trained, much less competed, in downhill or super-G this season, preferring a technical approach this season, she has dropped hints about defending her title. She had suggested previously that she might work on her super-G in possible downtime after Tuesday’s race.
Presumably, Shiffrin will make her announcement on the super-G via social media or through the U.S. Ski Team in the upcoming weeks.