What’s next for Mikaela Shiffrin in the final month?
Six races apparently remain
The show must go on, people.
Yes, after two weeks of the scrutiny, hype, analysis and proclamations that were the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Cortina, Italy, the World Cup restarts this weekend like nothing ever happened.
The men are in Bankso, Bulgaria, for two giant slaloms and the women stay in Italy for speed (two downhills and a super-G) in Val di Fassa. The World Cup championship, season titless and individual goals remain.
Here’s what’s up for Mikaela Shiffrin in the next four weeks.
The state of the Shiffrin
Were we having a State of the Shiffrin Address, we would have the obligatory applause line of “the state of our union/Shiffrin is strong.” In the course of 10 days at worlds, Shiffrin raced super-G for the first time in more than a year and took third, did a combi for the first time in nearly two years and won, nearly won the GS after struggling by her standards in the discipline and medaled in the slalom for the fifth worlds in a row.
Any doubts about Mikaela not being the same racer before/and after her father’s death a little more than a year ago are gone. Shiffrin will still have days or periods of times where things are tough, but she’s coming out of this on her own schedule.
Yes, there are four weeks left in 2020-21, but the world is already worried about the 2021-22 season, the 2022 Olympics in Beijing and the specter of Shiffrin returning to dominance.
The women have speed in Val Di Fassa this weekend, followed by two weekends of tech (Jasna, Slovakia, GS and slalom, and Are, Sweden, two slaloms) and conclude their season at the World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
As awesome as it would be to see Shiffrin take a swing at speed the way she’s skiing, she likely skips Val di Fassa and competes in Jasna, Are and Lenzerheide. (Shiffrin is not on the start list for training in Val di Fassa.) Just a note: If Shiffrin does not compete in speed this weekend, she will not be eligible for downhill or super-G in Lenzerheide.
Only the top 25 in the points qualify in each discipline for World Cup finals, and world championships don’t count toward the World Cup.It’s silly but true that the reigning worlds bronze-medalist in super-G doesn’t qualify for the World Cup finals super-G.
If we go on the assumption that Shiffrin has six races (four slaloms, two giant slaloms) left from Jasna, Are and Lenzerheide, the slalom title is in play.
Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova leads with 400 points with Austria’s Katharina Liensberger (360) and Shiffrin at 335 with 400 points up for grabs during the next four weeks. Shiffrin gaining 70 points during four slaloms is not asking her to pole vault over the Great Wall of China. This is quite attainable.
The bigger question is who’s the greater competition? Vlhova got off to the hot start in slalom, but Liensberger seems to be coming on strong late, including winning the worlds slaom last weekend.
In giant slalom, Shiffrin trails Italy’s Marta Bassino by 180 points with only two GS(es) remaining, so Mikaela would need many well-orchestrated lightning strikes and a conveniently-placed blimp accident or two to win there.
The overall also appears out of reach. Vlhova (989) Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami (947) and Michelle Gisin (807) are the leaders with Shiffrin in seventh with 615 points. Shiffrin shouldn’t win the World Cup championship, but we’d be remiss in mentioning that she does have a shot if she goes thermonuclear in her last six races.
If Shiffrin runs the table in her six races, she can get to 1,215 points. It’s not likely, but we’ve seen stranger.