Shiffrin wins slalom by huge margin at World Cup finals
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — What might have been.
Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States won another slalom by a huge margin Saturday, with her closest rivals more than two seconds slower at the season-ending World Cup finals.
Veronika Velez-Zuzulova (2.03 seconds behind) and newly-crowned World Cup winner Frida Hansdotter (2.31) could only smile wryly as Shiffrin crossed the line after another monstrous run from the Olympic champion.
Shiffrin herself didn’t celebrate after her fifth slalom victory of the season and her 19th in total, surpassing Sweden’s Anja Parson for fifth place among women.
The American is unbeaten in slalom racing since February 2015 but missed five races during a two-month injury layoff and couldn’t capture a fourth successive crystal globe in the discipline.
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“I try not to say ‘what if’ too much because maybe in a parallel universe maybe I won a fourth globe but we’re living in this world and Frida won and I think she really deserves it,” Shiffrin said. “Maybe if I didn’t get injured I would have struggled with my speed or something. It happened the way it did and I’m happy.”
Hansdotter of Sweden clinched the World Cup slalom title earlier this month with a race to spare. Velez-Zuzulova was runner-up, with Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener third in the standings.
“It feels amazing. It’s been a great season. To have this globe is a dream,” Hansdotter said. “I always ski pretty good. My level has been high all season. That’s why I’m standing here as No. 1.
“(Shiffrin) is skiing so good, she’s an amazing girl. It’s sad that she was injured. She came back strong and for sure we need to find something for next year to beat her or even to do a battle because she’s skiing too fast.”
Shiffrin is the first woman to win more than three races in one discipline in a season but fail to reach the podium of the final standings and the 21-year-old admits it was a bittersweet feeling to be a bystander rather than on top of the podium when the crystal globe was handed out.
“I’m so glad that I was able to ski well today and win another slalom but definitely there’s a sweet spot in my heart for getting the globe,” she said. “So watching (Hansdotter) get it, I have to say I was bummed, but at the same time I’m really, really happy for her because I know the feeling of holding that in your hand.
“You have goals to win a race but then to actually win the globe, it’s this whole other contest. I think she deserves it. I’ve been in her shoes, all you can do is smile.”
Shiffrin also had hopes of challenging for the overall title before her training mishap in Sweden.
It was a tough second run for many of the favorites as Nastastia Noens and Nina Loeseth, who were second and fourth after the first run, failed to finish.
Noens was second, 0.72 behind Shiffrin after the first run but crashed just after the second intermediate check. The race was interrupted as the French skier was helped to the side of the course, where she received treatment before being transported away on a stretcher.
Shiffrin was seen lying on her back in the start area with her arms outstretched as she waited for her turn but the interruption had little effect as she posted another perfect run.
“It feels really good,” Shiffrin said. “It’s always nice to end the season on top and it was a really great run so I’m excited.
“It just seems like I’m able to be connected with my skis better and move quicker (than the other women), the rhythm changes don’t get me as much and so it all adds up. Two seconds is a lot but it’s not that much. So I could easily see them figuring that out and coming right back and beating me.”