Mikaela Shiffrin had not only the World Cup slalom season title on her mind Saturday, but also a girl with leukemia whom she met more than one year ago.
The Olympic slalom champion continued her dominance, winning her fourth World Cup slalom in seven races this season and clinching the season title in the event for the second straight year in Are, Sweden, on Saturday.
Shiffrin, 18, has now won four World Cup slaloms each of the last two seasons and is the first woman to win eight World Cup slaloms before age 19, according to Infostrada.
Shiffrin prevailed in blizzard-like conditions in Are in a two-run time of 1 minute, 50.66 seconds. Swedes went two-three-four, led by Maria Pietilae Holmner, who was .6 behind Shiffrin. Anna Swenn-Larsson was third, her first career World Cup podium.
Shiffrin’s win came at the same venue as her first career World Cup victory on Dec. 20, 2012. That day was fresh in Shiffrin’s mind after winning Saturday, especially a meeting with a young girl who wanted a picture with her. Here’s what Shiffrin said in 2012:
And on Saturday:
“I just keep thinking about [Emma],” Shiffrin said in a press conference. “She was a little lucky charm for me. … It put everything in perspective. Since then, I’ve carried that same motto that I can win, whatever, Olympics, it is all great, but it could be a lot worse, so I have to be grateful for everything that I have.”
Shiffrin’s ascent is clear from her World Cup standings results the last three years, the best indicator of skiing talent as they take into account finishes from throughout the season.
She’s gone from 17th to first to first in the slalom and 49th to 19th to sixth in the giant slalom. She won the slalom title by 33 points last year and leads this year’s standings by 130 points with just the World Cup Finals left next weekend.
Shiffrin also ranks sixth in the overall World Cup standings despite not racing any super-G, downhill or combined. She’s said she dreamed of winning five Olympic golds in 2018 and may start entering super-Gs later this year.
Her next goal, though, is to win a giant slalom race. She’s finished second and third in giant slaloms this season but has never won one.
“I know my GS skiing is fast, fast enough to win, but I really have to do my best skiing,” said Shiffrin, who was 15th and 24th in giant slaloms in Are on Thursday and Friday. “That seems to be slipping away from me a little bit.”
Shiffrin turns 19 on Thursday, then plans to race at the World Cup Finals next weekend followed by the U.S. Championships in Squaw Valley, Calif., beginning March 19 and then get her wisdom teeth removed.
The race for this year’s overall World Cup title is tight. German Maria Hoefl-Riesch took the lead back from Austrian Anna Fenninger with her seventh-place finish Saturday.
Hoefl-Riesch leads by 29 points with the four races left in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, next weekend.
American Resi Stiegler took 14th, her best finish this season, but did not qualify for the World Cup Finals.
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) 1:50.66
2. Maria Pietilae-Holmner (SWE) 1:51.26
3. Anna Swenn-Larsson (SWE) 1:52.16
4. Frida Hansdotter (SWE) 1:52.56
5. Nastasia Noens (FRA) 1:53.63
6. Sarka Strachova (CZE) 1:53.77
7. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) 1:53.92
8. Kathrin Zettel (AUT) 1:53.94
9. Tina Maze (SLO) 1:54.19
10. Bernadette Schild (AUT) 1:54.32
14. Resi Stiegler (USA) 1:55.12