Mikaela Shiffrin quelled surfacing doubts about her Olympic gold-medal favorite status, winning a World Cup slalom race through rain and snow in Bormio, Italy, on Sunday.
The American prevailed in a two-run time of 2 minutes, .41 seconds. She won for the second time in four slalom races this season, further consolidating her World Championships and World Cup slalom titles last season.
“I was really psyched to win again,” Shiffrin, who was 12th and second in the previous two slaloms, told The Associated Press. “It’s been a fight all season and I feel like, if I’m not perfectly ready, then the win goes to somebody else. So I was really trying to prepare myself and be ready to go today no matter what the conditions or the visibility.”
Sweden’s Maria Pietilae-Holmner was second, .13 behind, followed by France’s Nastasia Noens.
The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup continues with a downhill and super combined in Altenmarkt, Austria, on Saturday and Sunday.
Lindsey Vonn is not expected to race as her status going forward is “up in the air.”
“Her knee is very swollen, and it’s impossible for her to consider skiing for now,” U.S. Ski Team coach Alex Hoedlmoser said, according to Reuters.
“To race without a ligament is extremely risky and can have serious consequences,” U.S. Ski Team coach Patrick Riml added. “If she was a young athlete, we would have stopped her already.”
Shiffrin, who does not ski speed events, entered Sunday’s rescheduled race having lost her tight grip as the world’s best slalom skier.
Austrian Marlies Schild had come back from injury to win the last two World Cup slaloms. Shiffrin finished 12th at one of them.
Schild, 32, had won four of five World Cup slalom season titles before Shiffrin, 18, took it last year with Schild mostly sidelined.
Schild would have taken this season’s standings lead had she finished higher than Shiffrin on Sunday.
“Everything was starting to get in my head, so I was just like, ‘Maybe I should just try to let it go and have fun with it,’” Shiffrin told the AP after her first run.
Schild finished sixth, moving up from 15th after the first run.
Shiffrin was 11th fastest in the second run after leading the opener at the Stelvio course. Her .03 starting advantage over Pietilae-Holmner dropped to .01 during her second run, but Shiffrin picked up .08 over the final split.
The event that crowns the Snow Queen was moved from Zagreb, Croatia. Shiffrin prepared by watching past runs by Olympic champions Bode Miller and Janica Kostelic on YouTube up to Saturday night.
“It reminds me of Vermont and northeast Canada,” Shiffrin, a Vail, Colo., native who also spent parts of childhood in New Hampshire, told the AP after her first run. “It’s the same for everybody, but the gates hit the snow and then the (snow) comes off it and hits you in the goggles so by the end of the course you couldn’t really see, but you could see enough to finish.”
Shiffrin is expected to compete a maximum of three more times before the Olympics — a Jan. 14 slalom in Flachau, Austria, and two races in Maribor, Slovenia, Feb. 1-2.
“I’m very excited with how my season is going right now and I think I can do better, too,” Shiffrin said.
Here’s a feature 9News in Colorado published on Shiffrin on Sunday:
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) 2:00.41
2. Maria-Pietilae Holmner (SWE) 2:00.54
3. Nastasia Noens (FRA) 2:01.03
4. Bernadette Schild (AUT) 2:01.15
5. Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) 2:01.52
6. Marlies Schild (AUT) 2:01.55
7. Michaela Kirchgasser (AUT) 2:01.72
8. Anna Swenn-Larsson (SWE) 2:01.75
9. Barbara Wirth (GER) 2:01.76
10. Frida Hansdotter (SWE) 2:01.85