This article originally appeared on Ski Mag
Mikaela Shiffrin has found her giant slalom groove. After a nine-day break for the holidays, Shiffrin slayed the giants of giant slalom in Semmering, Austria, taking back-to-back wins in two World Cup giant slaloms. To do it, she had to overcome the challenges of a dark, bumpy course--and her nerves.
"When you ski two races in a row on the same slope, if you have a good first race, it’s kind of easier to have a good second race," Shiffrin explained after winning the second GS of the week. "But for me, it’s also harder because I’m more nervous.
"So after yesterday, I felt like maybe I’m supposed to win [today], and anytime I feel like that, I don’t win. So I tried to just ski fast, just good skiing, that’s it. That worked today."
Watch: Mikaela Shiffrin scores 79th World Cup victory in Semmering
Petra Vlhova was runner-up to Shiffrin in Dec. 27's GS, with Lara Gut-Behrami holding on for second on Dec. 28. Italy's Marta Bassino finished third in both GSs, giving her six consecutive GS podiums.
Paula Moltzan also had a stellar GS run in Semmering. The former NCAA slalom champion scored a tenth place on Dec. 27, then a ninth today (Dec. 28)--her best GS result so far this season. Notably, after a near-crash in the first run, Moltzan skied the second-fastest second run in today's GS, jumping up 15 places.
"I was definitely really bummed after the first run," commented Moltzan. "It was not the skiing I wanted to put down. So I just made a good plan to go full gas [second run]. There wasn’t really much to lose, right? DNF or ski fast were the two options."
Until the Semmering races, Shiffrin had been searching for her mojo in giant slalom this season. She finished 13th in the Killington World Cup GS in late November, then sixth in Sestriere in mid-December. But Shiffrin is nothing if not calculated in her training and race approach, and she entered the St. Moritz speed races before the holiday hoping that speed work would give her that "instinct to always go down the hill"--in other words, to look for speed. In the end, her plan worked.
Shiffrin has now won three consecutive World Cups--the super-G in St. Moritz and the two giant slaloms in Semmering (the GS on December 27 made up for the canceled GS in Solden two months ago)--and five World Cups so far this season. Her grand tally of World Cup wins sits at 79, with eight slaloms and giant slaloms still to come in January 2023.
But it's not about the records for Shiffrin. She is a student of the sport and is always looking to improve. After the GS on Dec. 27, Shiffrin asked to watch the broadcast video of Vlhova and Bassino, whose second runs were about a half-second faster than Shiffrin's.
When asked what 79 World Cup victories means to her, Shiffrin explained that over her dozen years racing the World Cup tour, she has had good races and bad, highs and lows, with the past three years being especially difficult. Her beloved grandmother passed away in October 2019, then her father in February 2020. His death has left a hole in her heart that will never heal. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
"It means a lot [to win today]," she told reporters after the second Semmering GS. "But today, I just say it’s not 79 [wins]. It’s just one, and I’m really happy with it."
For those who are counting wins and records:
Shiffrin has won 79 World Cups, three shy of Lindsey Vonn's women's record (82) and seven back from Ingemar Stenmark (86).
Shiffrin has now won 16 World Cup giant slalom events, tying legend Annemarie Moser-Proll and Tessa Worley (who finished fourth and tenth, respectively, in the 2022 Semmering World Cup GSs). Only Swiss legend Vreni Schneider has won more (20).
The 2022 Semmering World Cup stop concludes with a slalom tomorrow. Shiffrin has won two World Cup slaloms in Semmering (2016 and 2018).
"I’m really looking forward to skiing the slalom here," commented Shiffrin. "I think that there’s a few women who can ski it faster than I can, but I’m going to do my best and we’ll see. I hope to have a good race."
"We’re coming into a pretty busy period," added Moltzan. "I’m excited to keep building, to keep carrying momentum into all these races, and hopefully I can bring it tomorrow. That’s the plan."
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