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After Mikaela Shiffrin won Monday’s super combined at the world championships, her chief rival made an acknowledgement ahead of the final two races in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
“She was perfect in super-G and also in slalom,” said Slovakian Petra Vlhova, the silver medalist. Media reported she called Shiffrin “unbeatable” in Monday’s event combining one run of each discipline.
Shiffrin, in the middle of a challenging World Cup season, rides record-breaking world championships success into her Olympic gold-medal events to finish the two-week competition. The giant slalom is Thursday. The slalom is Saturday. More history is at stake.
Last week, she took super-G bronze in her first race in the discipline in more than one year.
She went exactly one year between putting on the longer super-G skis, getting about four days of training in the speed event. No matter: Shiffrin was even on track for gold if not for a late mistake.
She likely wouldn’t have even entered the super-G if it was held at a venue unlike Cortina, where she has years of World Cup speed racing experience.
Shiffrin also probably would have passed on the combined if the speed run was the usual downhill rather than super-G.
In Monday’s competition, Shiffrin was again third-fastest in the super-G portion. More importantly, she was fastest in the slalom by .52 of a second over Vlhova, the world’s best slalom skier over the last 13 months.
In January 2020, Vlhova beat Shiffrin in back-to-back slaloms, something no skier had done since 2017. Shiffrin acknowledged that the Slovakian was “quite far ahead.” This season, Vlhova again leads the World Cup slalom standings.
Shiffrin ranks third in the world in slalom and fifth in GS, but now she has the momentum.
“Before that gold medal in the combined, I wasn’t sure I would put Mikaela Shiffrin as an absolute medal threat in the giant slalom,” NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said. “It’s been touch and go, but I think she’s got her mojo back, and I put her down for two more medals.”
Already in Cortina, Shiffrin became the most decorated American in worlds history, passing Ted Ligety and Lindsey Vonn with her sixth gold and eighth and ninth medals. She has another legend in her sights.
With medals in the GS and slalom, she can become the first skier to earn four medals at a single worlds since Swede Anja Pärson in 2007. She can also match Pärson’s female record of 11 career medals at standalone worlds in the modern era (since World War II).
Shiffrin is also one shy of the record for career world titles held by the Swede (again, standalone worlds in the modern era). Note Shiffrin is still just 25 years old.
She called the combined title “a release of pressure.”
“My biggest goal for the rest of the time is to keep that [carefree attitude] going even though my big events are coming,” Shiffrin said. “I started the super-G and the combined because I thought I had a chance, and I wanted to try. My priority events are coming up.”
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