SR Staff Report
COURCHEVEL, France — Mikaela Shiffrin won skiing’s overall World Cup title for the fourth time on Thursday, fueled by speed races that turned her expected duel with Petra Vlhová into a runaway success.
Shiffrin finished second in the super-G at the World Cup Finals — one day after a surprise victory in the downhill — to put more pressure on Vlhová for the overall title.
The Slovakian skier had to finish no worse than seventh to stop Shiffrin from extending her lead in the standings beyond 200 points with only their specialty slalom and giant slalom races left over the weekend.
The defending champion finished 17th, outside the top 15 scoring places, to trail Shiffrin by 236 points.
Shiffrin sat in the snow watching her rival’s run, shielding her eyes behind sunglasses, and smiled in her moment of victory. Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway won the race and was the first to greet Shiffrin with a long hug.
When asked if this victory was more memorable than the others, given the challenges of the season, Shiffrin said, “It’s hard to compare them all…they’re all special, but this season has been one of the most confusing seasons I’ve ever had. I felt motivation, I felt triumph…but I also had some tough moments…this COVID time and different things that were difficult to deal with. That carried through the Olympics, and carried right until now.”
Shiffrin’s boyfriend, Norwegian skier Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, was at the top of the slope preparing to race in the men’s super-G. He is the champion in that discipline.
Shiffrin earned her fourth giant crystal globe trophy after winning three straight overall titles from 2017-19, and one month after struggling at the Beijing Olympics.
American skier Lindsey Vonn also won four overall titles in her career, trailing behind only Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Pröll’s six titles in the 1970s.
In the super-G, Shiffrin finished 0.05 seconds behind Mowinckel. Michelle Gisin of Switzerland was third, 0.13 behind.
The season-long super-G title had already been secured by Federica Brignone of Italy, who placed 19th on Thursday.
Olympic champion Lara Gut-Behrami missed a gate and did not finish.
After enduring one of the toughest months of her career at the Olympics, winning no medals in six events, Shiffrin rested and trained for what proved to be a standout March.
Shiffrin and Vlhová started the month tied in the standings with eight races left — five in their favored technical disciplines and three in speed, which both have traditionally raced only selectively.
Those speed races proved decisive. Shiffrin was runner-up in a super-G in Switzerland, and then opened the World Cup Finals on Wednesday with only her third career victory in downhill.
In those same speed races, Vlhová posted results of 18th, 16th and 17th, respectively. She also competed in back-to-back downhills on Feb. 26-27 which Shiffrin skipped.
Looking ahead to the tech events on Saturday and Sunday, Shiffrin acknowledged that the conditions with the soft snow are not her ideal conditions, but she is looking forward to going out and just skiing. “We have two more races this season to hopefully ski well…and most importantly, just try to enjoy it,” she said. “It’s certainly not the conditions I normally love in either GS or slalom, but I think I can ski well if I’m working on the right things, so I can take it even as training days to practice how I perform in races on these conditions as well. So, that could be quite fun and could be something to enjoy, and I really appreciate that.”
The rest paid off for Shiffrin. Vlhová placed only 16th and 29th in those races to tie the American in the standings instead of taking an expected lead.
This is a developing story, stay tuned for more.
The Associated Press and the US Ski Team press office contributed to this report.