History on Hold: Shiffrin Finishes 2nd But Clinches 7th World Cup Slalom Title
This article originally appeared on Ski Mag
In Mikaela Shiffrin's latest episode of "Moving Right Along" (her YouTube series), she questions what history means. Is it the past? The present? Or the future?
After World Cup slalom No. 2 in Spindleruv Mlyn, the answer to Shiffrin's question is: All of the above. She finished second in today's race, so the quest for win No. 86 (Ingemar Stenmrk’s all-time World Cup win record) will have to wait until after world championships.
Related: Mikaela Shiffrin clinches victory No. 85
Shiffrin feels no pressure to tie and surpass Stenmark's record, a record he set while competing in the 1970s and ’80s.
"It’s a really special position to be in to fight for the 86th victory," Shiffrin said after today's second-place finish. "And it’s even more amazing considering that if I have, like today on the second run, if I’m not taking all the risk, and doing top, top level skiing, I’m not going to win the race. So I have to be on my highest level, fully perfect in order to do it, and that makes it even more special to be in this position."
It wasn’t another win, but today’s finish brings Shiffrin’s World Cup slalom point total to 785, enough to secure her seventh slalom crystal globe. (With the remaining slalom races left in the season, it’s impossible for Wendy Holdener and Petra Vlhova, currently tied for second in the slalom standings, to surpass Shiffrin’s point total).
Shiffrin last won the slalom title in 2019. Only Lindsey Vonn and Stenmark have won more discipline titles: Stenmark has eight slalom and giant slalom crystal globes, Vonn has eight in downhill.
"I’ve been working hard to try to get my slalom to a really high level again so I can fight for winning races," said Shiffrin. "But this season has been something really special, and I’m really happy to have the globe already."
Shiffrin's 134th podium finish was bookended by the history-making of others. Fifteen years after making her World Cup debut, Germany's Lena Duerr won her first race. The 31-year-old had finished on the slalom podium behind Shiffrin three times in the past month. Then, in her 189th World Cup start today, Duerr scored her first win.
It’s been 11 years since a German woman won a World Cup slalom. Skiing icon Maria Hoefl-Riesch last won in November 2012--a race in which Duerr did not qualify for a second run.
"It took me a while," admitted Duerr. "I just tried to risk it all. I had that little mistake down in the flat, and then I just thought, 'Okay, go all in.' Crazy that today’s the day."
Watch: Women’s World Cup Slalom Spindleruv Mlyn Highlights
Behind Duerr and Shiffrin, Croatia's Zrinka Ljutic earned her first World Cup podium. A rising star in Croatia, the 19-year-old had come close before, most recently in the Flachau slalom earlier this month but had DNFed second run. This time, in Spindleruv Mlyn, Ljutic held it together in her second run.
But all eyes were on Shiffrin, who is skiing--almost impossibly--at another level. Asked if she was disappointed to not win her 12th race this season, Shiffrin said no. Even without the win, it was "an incredible day."
Related: Mikaela Shiffrin is now breaking her own records
Really, an incredible month. Exactly a month ago, in Semmering, Austria, Shiffrin began a streak that's included seven of her 11 World Cup wins this season.
"It’s been so, so many amazing races," she said. "I don’t expect to win every one. I mean, I didn’t expect to win 11 this year already. So today, after all of it, after yesterday's [win] and the first run today felt amazing. Then the second run, maybe I didn’t risk quite enough to earn the win, but still managing to get another podium, secure the slalom globe, those things are amazing for me."
"Lena, she deserves to win races," added Shiffrin. "It’s unbelievable how she’s been skiing the last couple years, and I'm just really happy for both of the other women on the podium and happy for myself as well.
"It’s not the 86th victory, but like whatever," she concluded, with a laugh.
The Spindleruv Mlyn World Cup was the final race on the calendar before the 2023 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Courchevel Meribel, France. Women's combined opens the event on February 6. Shiffrin is the reigning combined world champion. In the previous five world championships--dating back a decade to a different world in 2013--Shiffrin has never finished lower than eighth, and in 13 races, she has won 11 medals, including six gold.
Asked if she is feeling pressure going to her sixth world championship after what happened at the 2022 Olympics last winter, Shiffrin again said no.
"If I learned anything last year, it's that these big events, they can go amazing and they can go terribly, and you’re going to survive no matter what," she stated. "So I kind of don’t care."
Shiffrin will resume her World Cup run in March. She'll have a chance to tie (and surpass) Stenmark's mark in the eight World Cups left on the 2022-2023 calendar: a downhill and super-G in Kvitfjell, Norway; slalom and GS in Are, Sweden; then World Cup finals in Andorra, with a downhill, super-G, GS, and slalom.
With the slalom globe already in her pocket, Shiffrin will also try to win her second GS globe and will almost surely clinch her fifth overall World Cup title. If she does, she will surpass Vonn as the American skier with the most overall titles and trail only Austrian legend Annemarie Moser-Proll who won six in the 1970s.
But again, what is history?
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