Mikaela Shiffrin clinches fourth World Cup slalom season title
Mikaela Shiffrin clinched her fourth World Cup slalom season title before she left the gate for Saturday’s race. With that pressure off, Shiffrin went on to win for the 11th time in 23 starts this season.
Shiffrin prevailed by 1.03 seconds after two slalom runs in Squaw Valley, Calif., which is hosting its first World Cup races since 1969. Czech Sarka Strachova was second, followed by Austrian Bernadette Schild.
Swiss Wendy Holdener was fastest in the first run by .02 over Shiffrin, and led Shiffrin by .12 at the last split before the finish. But Holdener fell in the final few gates.
“In a way, I feel like she gave up the win,” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t necessarily take the win from her.”
Shiffrin made a mistake near the top of the course but gained considerable time on Strachova in the final several gates. Even if Holdener stayed upright, Shiffrin likely would have won.
“I’m not proud of my skiing,” Shiffrin said on NBCSN. “It was very scrappy, and I’m proud of the fight, but it’s not my best skiing. But to fight my way to the finish and come away with another win today, sometimes it’s better to do that than to feel like I skied unbelievable.”
Shiffrin’s closest standings rival, Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova, fell in her first of two slalom runs, which eliminated her already slim chances of overtaking Shiffrin in the standings by the end of the season next weekend.
Shiffrin matched legends Alberto Tomba, Marlies Schild and Marcel Hirscher with four World Cup slalom season titles. Three skiers have captured more -- Ingemar Stenmark (eight), Vreni Schneider (six) and Erika Hess (five).
Shiffrin now leads the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, by a nearly insurmountable 378 points with four races left. Winners receive 100 points per race.
Shiffrin can mathematically clinch her first overall title next week at the World Cup Finals, which begin with a downhill on Wednesday in Aspen, Colo.
Already the youngest Olympic slalom champion ever, Shiffrin is set to become the youngest male or female World Cup overall champion since Croatian Janica Kostelic in 2003. She turns 22 years old on Monday.
“I’m very close to having the overall, but at the same time it makes me feel like I have to earn it even more,” Shiffrin said, noting that her top rival early in the season, 2016 overall champion Lara Gut, is out with a season-ending knee injury. “It’s something that I feel like I haven’t quite earned yet, even though I have it almost on paper. It adds a little bit of pressure almost.”
Four Americans have won the overall title -- Phil Mahre, Tamara McKinney, Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn.
Shiffrin is now at 31 World Cup wins, ranking third all-time among Americans behind Vonn (77 wins) and Miller (33 wins).
Her 11 wins this season tie for the second-most by an American in one season, behind Vonn’s 12 in 2012.
With one giant slalom and one slalom left next week, she could reach 13 victories, which would tie for second all-time among all male and female skiers in one season.
Shiffrin’s continued slalom domination and breakthrough giant slalom and super combined wins this season make her a threat next year to become the first U.S. woman to win three gold medals at one Winter Olympics in any sport.
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