World Cup closes on ‘what-ifs’ for American women
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — What might have been for American Mikaela Shiffrin.
She won another slalom event by a huge margin Saturday, with her closest rivals more than two seconds slower at the season-ending World Cup finals.
Veronika Velez-Zuzulova and newly-crowned World Cup winner Frida Hansdotter could only smile wryly as Shiffrin crossed the line after another monstrous run from the Olympic champion.
She is unbeaten in slalom racing since February 2015. But she missed five races during a two-month injury layoff and couldn’t capture a fourth successive crystal globe in the discipline.
She didn’t celebrate after her fifth slalom victory of the season and her 19th in total, surpassing Sweden’s Anja Parson for fifth place among women.
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“I try not to say ‘what if’ too much because maybe in a parallel universe maybe I won a fourth globe,” Shiffrin said. “But we’re living in this world, and Frida won, and I think she really deserves it.
“Maybe if I didn’t get injured, I would have struggled with my speed or something. It happened the way it did and I’m happy.”
Hansdotter of Sweden clinched the World Cup slalom title earlier this month with a race to spare. Velez-Zuzulova was runner-up, with Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener third in the standings.
“It feels amazing. It’s been a great season. To have this globe is a dream,” Hansdotter said. “I always ski pretty good. My level has been high all season. That’s why I’m standing here as No. 1.
“(Shiffrin) is skiing so good, she’s an amazing girl. It’s sad that she was injured. She came back strong, and, for sure, we need to find something for next year to beat her or even to do a battle because she’s skiing too fast.”
Shiffrin is the first woman to win more than three races in one discipline in a season but fail to reach the podium of the final standings. She had hopes of challenging for the overall title before her training mishap in Sweden.
She admits it was bittersweet as a bystander when the crystal globe was handed out.
“I’m so glad that I was able to ski well today and win another slalom, but definitely there’s a sweet spot in my heart for getting the globe,” she said. “So watching (Hansdotter) get it, I have to say I was bummed, but, at the same time, I’m really, really happy for her because I know the feeling of holding that in your hand.
“I’ve been in her shoes; all you can do is smile.”
Crash on the GS course
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — Eva-Maria Brem of Austria clinched the women’s giant slalom title by the slenderest of margins at the World Cup finals on Sunday for her first-ever crystal globe.
She needed to finish fourth to win the title and did just that, edging Marie-Michele Gagnon into fifth by 0.04 seconds to secure the trophy by only two points.
Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, the only woman who could surpass Brem in the standings, finished first and faced an anxious wait to see what her rival would do.
Brem crossed the line and looked nervously over at the clock before putting her head in her hands. Rebensburg was the first to congratulate her.
Taina Barioz was second on the day, 0.46 behind Rebensburg. Overall champion Lara Gut was third, 0.75 off the pace.
Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States crashed on the opening run, while leading after the first split.
Brem was fastest in the opening run, 0.06 ahead of Barioz and 0.20 ahead of Gut. Rebensburg was 0.66 seconds slower.
Slalom specialist Shiffrin had the fastest time at the start, 0.76 ahead of Brem and 0.19 quicker than Gut, but spun out on a turn and slid down the course.
Shiffrin, who missed two months off the season following a training crash in Sweden, was not injured.
“I tried to risk a little bit because, in order to win GS races, you have to risk, not necessarily go crazy but take some risk and push the line and push the gates, so I tried to do that,” she told The Associated Press. “It was actually funny because the one gate that I fell on was the one gate that I kind of went back to my skiing where I’m a little tentative, and I dive in too soon.
“So I was like, ‘Yup, just keep moving in this direction because you’re going to be better and faster and safer.’”
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