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Mikaela Shiffrin wins World Cup Finals slalom to end wild, successful season

In short, Mikaela Shiffrin’s season was, as she called it, wild.

In detail, she had at least three hospital visits (one to see boyfriend Aleksander Aamodt Kilde), saw rival Petra Vlhova endure a season-ending race crash in January and finished the campaign Saturday just as she did last season: with a victory at the World Cup Finals.

Shiffrin prevailed by 54 hundredths of a second in Saturday’s slalom in Saalbach, Austria, combining times from two runs.

It marked Shiffrin’s record-extending 97th career World Cup win, including her ninth this season, most on the women’s tour. Plus her 60th career World Cup slalom win, extending her record for the most in any single discipline.

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“I’m looking forward to next season already,” she said, adding later, “these days just make me feel so invigorated, so alive.”

She is skipping the last three races of the season — Saturday’s giant slalom and a super-G and downhill next weekend — due to a lack of training in the disciplines coming back from a Jan. 26 downhill crash.

“It’s just been so important to me to race again this season with good skiing before the season is over just to finish it off with something positive so I can start next season in a better place, too,” Shiffrin told Swiss broadcaster SRF last week.

In that January crash, Shiffrin sprained left leg ligaments. She was sidelined for an 11-race stretch of the 39-race campaign before returning last weekend (with another win to clinch an eighth slalom season title).

She also missed significant training time early in the season after suffering a bone bruise on her left tibial plateau in an autumn practice crash.

This was supposed to be a calmer season.

She did not have the scrutiny of 2022-23, when she chased and broke Ingemar Stenmark’s career World Cup wins record. She did not have an Olympics or world championships this winter. She had an entire offseason to get to know her new coach, Karin Harjo.

Next season, the milestone watch returns for the possibility of reaching 100 World Cup victories. There are a world championships (also in Saalbach), where Shiffrin can break the all-time medals record of 15 if she makes two podiums. She turns 30 next March.

“I never really focus too much on the numbers, but now I feel OK with them,” Shiffrin said. “It’s not pressure. It’s not anything. It’s just an honor.”

Everything will set up for the following Olympic year, which will bring its own added scrutiny.

For now, Shiffrin finishes another winter of again finding a way through challenges to stay at the top of her sport.

“It was quite a learning experience,” Shiffrin told Austrian broadcaster ORF. “There’s always there’s always something you learn every season and this one taught me a lot about patience, a lot about trust, a lot about communication and learning how to manage pain and still ski. Those are really important things that I hope will be useful for the rest of my career.”