10th crystal globe of Mikaela’s career
Tie goes to the runner, right?
Ironically, in her “worst” super-G performance of the season, tying for fourth with Austria’s Nicole Schmidhofer during Thursday’s World Cup finals in Soldeu, Andorra, Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin iced the first World Cup super-G title of her career.
That’s pretty impressive given that the now 24-year-old Shiffrin — her birthday was Wednesday — only competed in four World Cup super-Gs all season.
Shiffrin won three super-G starts (Lake Louise, Alberta, St. Moritz, Switzerland and Cortina, Italy) and a tie for fourth with Schmidhofer gives the American 350 points on the season to the Austrian’s 303 and Lichtenstein’s Tina Weirather (268). That’s World Cup title No. 3 this season for Shiffrin, who’s already clinched the overall and slalom titles, going into this season.
Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg won Thursday’s super-G in Andorra with a time of 1 minute, 23.91 seconds, ahead of Austria’s Tamara Tippler (15-hundredths of a second behind) and Italy’s Federica Brignone (34-hundredths back). But for Shiffrin, the key was to stay ahead of Schmidhofer and Weirather in Thursday’s race to win the globe. The tie with Schmidhofer was as good as a win and Weirather was a DNF (did not finish).
“It’s special because I really never thought I could be in this position this season already in super-G,” Shiffrin said to The Associated Press. “… The way that everybody came together and made this work was just amazing. We are all so proud and everybody feels some ownership of this. … I’ve dreamed about someday, maybe, being able to win a globe in super-G but I really wasn’t expecting it this season.”
Yes, Shiffrin is best known for her technical skills in the slalom and giant slalom. Beyond that, she has branched out into speed (downhill and super-G) during the last two seasons, winning a downhill in Lake Louise on Dec. 2, 2017, and completing the cycle of World Cup wins with a super-G triumph in early December of this season. That said, no one thought she would ascend to this status this quickly.
While she did win the International Ski & Snowboard Federation Alpine World Ski Championship in super-G last month in Are, Sweden — worlds do not count toward World Cup points — she made it clear throughout the season that winning the speed discipline’s season title wasn’t necessarily a goal for the campaign.
Having felt that she overextended herself last season in the run-up to the 2018 Olympics and initially attempting to compete in all five events (downhill, super-G, combined, giant slalom and slalom), Shiffrin was committed to keeping a schedule that kept her at her best physical and mental levels throughout the grinding season.
“I did think about it for a split second and then I tried to reel my brain back down to earth,” she said of altering her schedule to add more super-G races in a conference call with reporters on Jan. 24. “The super-G title was not one of the goals that I had set for this season, and I try to be really careful about not overshooting or changing my plans like crazy in the middle of the season. That might sound kind of stubborn because for sure I’m in an amazing spot in super-G right now, but I think it would add one too many things to the plate and could potentially kind of ruin all of my other goals.”
However, she might have gotten a break with the schedule as weather wiped out a pair of super-G races two weeks ago in Russia leaving her remaining atop the super-G standings.
Third to 2,000
And in one of those oh-by-the-way moments which have become rather familiar during Shiffrin’s historic season, the American ski racer became the third athlete in World Cup history to surpass 2,000 points in one season. Croatia’s Tina Maze racked up 2,414 points during the 2013 winter. Shiffrin has 2,004 with two races remaining this week — slalom on Saturday and giant slalom on Sunday. The legendary Hermann Maier had 2,000 in 2000.
That’s some good historical company; it’s also rather amazing in the era of specialization. In her run to 2,414, Maze started all 35 events in 2012-13, won 11 times, had a whopping 24 podiums and was in the top 10 in 32 of 35 races.
Shiffrin was a “youngster” on tour during Maze’s rampage, and, according to the New York Times’ Bill Pennington, in 2014 Tina told Mikaela — as friendly advice — not to try to compete in every race.
Shiffrin seems to have heeded those words. She has started on the World Cup in 24 of 33 events. In those 24 starts, she has 15 wins, 19 podiums and has been in the top 10 in all of her starts. Her “worst” finish of the season is ninth in a Lake Louise downhill, and, as strange as it sounds, by finishing fourth in Thursday’s super-G, she missed the podium for only the fifth time this season.
Call it the efficient road to 2,000.
‘I had no idea how it went’
Shiffrin started 13th on Thursday with her pursuers for the super-G globe Weirather, wearing bib No. 7, and Schmidhofer going ninth.
Up at the start, Shiffrin did her pre-race routine and had no idea that Weirather ended up as DNF and was out of the globe chase. With bib No. 9, Schmidhofer came down in third place at the time. As it has been her modus operandi all season, Shiffrin focused on herself.
“In the start, I had no idea how it went with Nici (Schmidhofer) or with Tina, and I knew that it was going to be a battle and everybody would be going for it,” Shiffrin said to AP. “The way I have been skiing super-G all season I felt like, I didn’t know if it was enough to win but I knew that if I could be aggressive, I really had a good chance for the globe. I had to focus on my skiing and on my tactics. It worked out just enough.”
Shiffrin ended up coming down tied for third with Schmidhofer. Austrian Tippler bumped the duo to fourth by finishing second. Bigger picture, Shiffrin clinched the 10th globe of her career (six slalom crowns, three overalls, and super-G).
Next up for Shiffrin, who turned 24 on Wednesday, is slalom on Saturday, followed by giant slalom on Sunday. Having already won the slalom championship for the sixth time in seven years, the business at hand is clinching her first giant-slalom globe. She will enter with a 97-point lead and essentially just needs to finish in the top 15 to secure another title. Shiffrin has won three giant slalom races this season and finished no worse than fifth in any race in that discipline this season.
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