Shiffrin wins WCup slalom, extends winning streak to 5 races
FLACHAU, Austria — Olympic slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin used a frenetic final run to stretch her winning streak in 2018 to five races at a women’s World Cup night race on Tuesday.
Shiffrin became the first female skier to start a calendar year with five straight wins, eclipsing the previous best mark by Swiss standout Vreni Schneider in 1989.
For the first time this season, Shiffrin was not leading after the opening part of a slalom. After a run in which the American struggled for rhythm throughout, she trailed first-run leader Bernadette Schild of Austria by 0.37 seconds.
But on a course set by her coach Mike Day, Shiffrin was back to her best and posted the fastest second-run time to beat the Austrian by 0.94.
Frida Hansdotter of Sweden was 1.43 behind in third.
“Actually, the biggest change was just my mindset,” Shiffrin said about the difference between struggling in the first and excelling in the final run.
“I was watching Bernadette’s first run and I thought it was so clean and aggressive, so cool to watch. I had nothing to lose. I must say Bernadette put on a real good show. I can imagine how nervous she was in the second run. So hard to do that in front of the home crowd.”
Schild lost her first-run lead but still celebrated with both arms up in the air.
The Austrian was on a World Cup podium five times before, most recently in Killington in November, but has yet to win a race.
The previous time she led a slalom after the opening run, in 2013 in Courchevel, she lost her advantage to her older sister Marlies Raich. Now retired, Raich holds the record for most slalom wins (35) on the women’s circuit.
Schild also posted the fastest time in the second run of Sunday’s slalom in Kranjska Gora, but lost too much time in the opening leg to threaten Shiffrin’s win.
The Austrian women’s team has been waiting for a slalom win since Nicole Hosp triumphed in Aspen in 2014.
Shiffrin celebrated her 41st career win, matching the record for most World Cup wins by a 22-year-old skier, set by Annemarie Moser-Proell in the 1970s.
“She is such an amazing name, legend in ski racing,” Shiffrin said about the Austrian great. “It’s a different time now. A lot of people say you can’t really compare that and I agree with them. It’s incredible, nevertheless. I wasn’t thinking about the 41st victory, I was just thinking, you know, ski this one like this is going to be that last one you’ll ever ski.”
It also was the 200th win for the U.S. ski team in the 50-year history of the women’s World Cup. Only Austria (372) and Switzerland (301) have won more races. Shiffrin and four-time overall champion Lindsey Vonn together have added 119 wins to the American total.
Shiffrin went further ahead in both the overall and the slalom standings as her main rivals, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, failed to finish their first runs.
After 19 of this season’s 38 races, Shiffrin has amassed 1,381 World Cup points. Four years ago, that amount would have been enough for the overall title as Anna Veith won it with a total of 1,371.
Shiffrin will skip the next World Cup races — speed events in Bad Kleinkirchheim this weekend — to have more time for training.