Skiing great Shiffrin captures 93rd career victory
LIENZ, Austria (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin always seems to raise the bar even further when it’s the last World Cup race of the year.
The American star finished 2023 with an eye-catching performance even by her standards, winning a slalom race by a huge margin of 2.34 seconds on Friday for her 93rd career victory.
It was Shiffrin's seventh victory out of her last eight starts in the traditional year-ending slalom, which alternates between the Austrian resorts of Lienz and Semmering.
“The last couple of years, we really built from the beginning of the season to this point, and somehow it clicks, I guess,” said Shiffrin, who missed this race in 2015 with a knee injury, and in 2021 after testing positive for the coronavirus.
However, there's no secret to her peaking between Christmas and New Year.
“In skiing, it’s always just like: be relentless with the work, do the job,” the American five-time overall World Cup champion said.
Shiffrin posted the fastest times by far in both runs on the Schlossberg course to finish ahead of runner-up Lena Duerr of Germany. Swiss skier Michelle Gisin was 0.11 further back in third.
“Today was a very special day for me. I felt perfect on the skis, so I’m super happy,” said Shiffrin, who also won Thursday’s giant slalom on the same hill. “It’s a very nice feeling right now.”
Friday's result was the seventh-biggest winning margin ever in a women’s World Cup slalom. Shiffrin set four of those other marks, including the record of 3.07 seconds from a race in Aspen, Colorado, in November 2015.
Her American teammate Paula Moltzan, who was second after the opening leg, straddled a gate and did not finish her final run.
Shiffrin’s main rival in slalom, Olympic champion Petra Vlhova, finished 3.24 seconds behind in fifth. The Slovakian had beaten Shiffrin in a night slalom in France last week.
Seeking a record-extending 56th career win from 107 starts in slalom, Shiffrin dominated the opening run ahead of Moltzan and positioned herself for a second win in two days.
Shiffrin had a flawless first run down the Schlossberg course to lead Moltzan by a huge margin of 1.14 seconds.
Shiffrin also carved out a big lead in Thursday’s GS, when she used a rather conservative second run to secure her record-extending 92nd career win. But there was no holding back in the afternoon this time, despite the packed schedule this week.
“It’s definitely a push today,” Shiffrin said after the first run. “I took the last four days of training and then straight to the race yesterday, and so I knew today would be six days in a row, it was going to be maybe a little bit tiring. But I wanted to feel comfortable with the skiing.”
Moltzan posted the fastest time in the opening section, even beating Shiffrin by 0.07, but was slowed halfway down her run when she leaned backward and her ski tips went up in the air before she quickly regained her rhythm.
Moltzan initially extended her lead over Duerr in the final run before losing time at the following splits. She straddled a gate near the end of her run.
“The way she skied the first run was just so wonderful. And it’s really bittersweet today,” Shiffrin said.
Shiffrin and Moltzan finished 1-2 a year ago to the day at a slalom in another Austrian resort — Semmering. It was the first such result for the U.S. women in more than 51 years.
The women's World Cup continues with a GS and a slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Jan. 6-7.
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