Two years ago, Mikaela Shiffrin believed she would probably never earn a world championships medal in the giant slalom.
On Thursday, she took silver with the fastest second run in the field in St. Moritz, Switzerland, where she had failed to complete a GS in three previous World Cup stops in 2012, 2013 and 2016.
Shiffrin finished .34 behind French world champion Tessa Worley after two runs. Italian Sofia Goggia earned bronze.
Shiffrin earned the first U.S. medal in the event since Julia Mancuso‘s bronze in 2005. The last American to win the world championships giant slalom was Diann Roffe in 1985.
It bodes well as Shiffrin goes for her third straight world title in the slalom on Saturday (3:45 and 7 a.m. ET, NBCSports.com/live), where she is a heavy favorite.
Shiffrin has won just about every major slalom crown the last four years, all the while steadily improving in giant slalom. However, Shiffrin experienced a setback at the 2015 World Championships near her home in Beaver Creek, Colorado.
She was 13th in the first giant slalom run there and ended up eighth overall. She had been sixth in the 2013 Worlds giant slalom (at age 17) and fifth at the 2014 Olympics.
“If you asked me in Beaver Creek at world championships if I would ever medal in a GS, I was so far out in my skiing, I was so mad about my skiing that I probably would have said no,” Shiffrin said Thursday. “Two years later, here I am.”
Shiffrin was in third place after the first run in the morning, .72 behind the pre-race favorite Worley and .24 back of Goggia. She said she felt tentative, thinking about spots on the course where she had fallen in years’ past.
“I left something out on the hill,” Shiffrin said on NBCSN.
Shiffrin, known for taking naps between her first and second runs, couldn’t take her mind off being in medal position in the four hours between runs Thursday.
“You don’t want to lose this chance, it’s right there,” Shiffrin said she thought to herself. “I tried to think of it like a completely new run, just to see if I could win the run.”
She did, two tenths faster than anybody else. Worley, the last skier to go, erred early in her descent but had enough cushion to hang on for her second world title in the GS. The Frenchwoman, who barely eclipses 5 feet tall, won the 2013 World title but missed the Sochi Olympics with a torn ACL.
Shiffrin tacks her world medal onto her three career World Cup giant slalom victories, to go along with her 25 World Cup slalom wins. Shiffrin is also poised to win this season’s World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Not bad for a 21-year-old.
“I don’t really feel like a star,” she said. “Maybe it’s because I’m a little bit clueless about that. When people say it, it feels like they’re talking about somebody else.”
A total of 98 skiers entered Thursday’s race, the last being 37-year-old Haitian Celine Marti, who was 41.37 seconds behind after the first run, failing to qualify for the second run.
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