Mikaela Shiffrin has said in interviews that she wonders if it’s “smart” to go to St. Moritz every year or if she should just take time to recover and prepare for the next series of tech races.
On Saturday, she made the trip worth it.
The 28-year-old skied a clean top section out of bib No. 3 and held on at the bottom to claim her fourth World Cup downhill win. Shiffrin bombed the Corviglia course in 1 minute, 28.84 seconds to hold off Sofia Goggia, the downhill champion for the previous three seasons, by just 0.15 seconds. Federica Brignone (1:29.01) rounded out the podium.
“I’m always wondering, should I be going to do the downhill, should I just focus on super-G and also get GS and slalom training. I really want to make it worth it,” Shiffrin said, in quotes provided by the U.S. Ski Team, after her record-extending 91st World Cup win and third victory of the 2023-24 season.
“So of course being on the podium is incredible and if does end up being a victory, then that’s pretty special.”
“My run was maybe not so clean as other downhills I did in the past,” said Goggia, the winner of Friday’s super-G. “But anyway I’m happy (all) the same because even with the mistake and with dirty lines, I’m still second.”
Goggia, who had five wins and three second-place downhill finishes last year, was not surprised by Shiffrin’s skiing. The Italian was impressed with Shiffrin’s stamina while the pair trained downhill last April.
“I knew that she (Shiffrin) could be really the one to beat today,” Goggia said. “She has already won some downhills in her career, and Shiffrin is always Shiffrin — you can also expect that she comes first.”
Shiffrin also recorded downhill wins in Lake Louise (2017), Bansko (2020) and Courchevel (2022). On Saturday, she posted the fastest time in the first and second split.
“You had to push. I really did,” Shiffrin said before adding that it was “helpful” to have skied the course last year — where she placed sixth and fourth (before winning the super-G on the final day of the weekend). “I knew what to expect and that experience helped so much, so I’ve been more calm this week learning the downhill track again.”
Shiffrin said the biggest challenge she faced was trusting that if she didn’t ski the perfect line, she could “still dive into the turn with confidence.”
“Normally with downhill, I sometimes struggle to ski the course very fluidly. I try to ski the perfect line, but then somebody else skis something different, so I always feel like I’m chasing it,” she said. “And today I kind of forgot about that part and just focused on the skiing.”
Shiffrin’s wide turns toward the bottom allowed Goggia to snatch the win.
“I felt very good with my skiing but on the very end I had one small mistake,” Shiffrin continued. “I wasn’t sure if the rest of the run was good enough to kind of be fast with this — and you kind of can’t see it, but I was losing some time at the bottom. Just watching Sofia was like, ‘I have a chance to win this race if she’s not perfect on it.'”
In the end, that’s exactly what happened. The 2018 Olympic downhill gold medalist was only the 10th and 15th fastest through the final two sectors.
Brignone, fresh off back-to-back GS victories in Tremblant, Quebec, last weekend, skied perhaps the cleanest run from Bib No. 1.
“I’m really happy about my performance, I did everything that I wanted to do,” the 33-year-old, who finished fifth in Friday’s super-G, said. “I was smooth on the flat parts and aggressive on the turns — that’s what I was looking for yesterday and I didn’t find it.”
The Italian is currently the closest challenger to Shiffrin in the overall standings. The American has 620 points, 195 clear of Brignone. Shiffrin also leads the slalom and downhill disciplines, is third in GS and sits fourth in super-G. When asked if her win meant she might consider chasing the downhill globe, Shiffrin laughed.
“I don’t think I can even try for (the) downhill globe if I’m still racing slalom. It’s just not possible,” she said before pointing out the upcoming World Cup schedule: another super-G in St. Moritz on Sunday, followed by a downhill and super-G in Val d’Isere, France Dec. 14-17 and then a night slalom in Courchevel, France on Dec. 21.
“It’s a quick switch. That’s when it starts to get pretty exhausting, but if I have good momentum, then mostly it’s just exciting. I don’t expect to really be winning downhills all the time, so I’m just happy with the day.”
Shiffrin did say, however, she’s always enjoyed watching skiers who push in every event.
“But it’s very difficult and the schedule is basically impossible to do every race and succeed all the time. It’s a lot of racing,” she said. “Right now, the way the schedule works, I think more people don’t want to do every event. More people will probably specialize.”
One reporter asked Shiffrin if she’d consider speaking with FIS about tweaking the schedule to allow for athletes to more easily contend in all four disciplines.
“Yes and no. It’s a little bit a conversation that’s happening, but over the years it’s not a lot of interest to change how many races there are,” she said.
“Normally if anybody from my team is saying something then it’s like, ‘well you can choose to do less; then it’s not as hard.’ And I mean, I guess that’s also an answer. I think it’s really exciting to watch people race in anything. For sure it’s hard and challenging.”