Lindsey Vonn won her first giant slalom since her career-altering 2013 World Championships crash, proving Saturday (against an unaccomplished field) that she’s the world’s best healthy and active skier.
Vonn captured her fourth straight victory and 71st overall, prevailing by .07 of a second over two runs in Åre, Sweden (full results). Once before has Vonn won four straight World Cup races, in December 2011.
Vonn padded her standings lead for the World Cup overall title, the top prize this season with no Olympics or World Championships.
“The old woman still has some tricks up her sleeve,” Vonn, 31, told media in Åre. “I’m not maybe as agile as I used to be. I’m not maybe as explosive. … My experience paid off.”
Shiffrin stands in second place — 104 points behind — but is now very much in doubt to rival Vonn’s quest for a fifth overall title the rest of the season.
Vonn, whose best disciplines are the faster downhill and super-G, last won a giant slalom on Jan. 26, 2013.
Ten days later, she crashed at the World Championships, causing the first of two major knee surgeries that forced her out of the Sochi Olympics.
“I’m surprised because I haven’t skied very much [giant slalom],” Vonn told media in Åre after her leading first run Saturday. “I was hoping to be in the top three, but at the same time I knew that if I could arc and ski aggressively that I could win, because I’ve done it here before.”
Vonn skipped the season-opening giant slalom Oct. 24, recovering after suffering an ankle fracture in an Aug. 13 crash, and then skied off the course in the last giant slalom Nov. 27.
The bulk of her preparation for Saturday came Friday night and ski-less, when Vonn watched video of her Åre giant slalom victory from March 9, 2012.
“I haven’t done really any GS training,” Vonn said, laughing, after her first run. “It’s basically just going off confidence.”
Vonn was adamant that she would not race Sunday’s slalom.
“I’m young enough to still be able to ski well in GS, but not young enough to still be good at slalom,” she said, laughing.
The women’s tour this season is already missing the last two World Cup overall champions — Anna Fenninger (knee surgery) and Tina Maze (break). Injuries to Shiffrin and Swedish technical skier Sara Hector on Saturday concerned Vonn.
“Ski racing needs Mikaela and Sara,” she said. “We can’t afford to lose any more athletes.”
Vonn, though, was unaffected by the sport’s mounting crashes in regard to her own skiing, despite her own injury-filled past.
“I have nothing to lose,” Vonn said. “I think that makes me a dangerous competitor, because I’m not afraid of falling or losing. … That’s how I roll. I take risk, and that’s what makes me fast. It’s what makes me fall, sometimes, but that’s the part of the game. I’d rather fall and be going fast than be safely in the finish and be really slow. I’m always going to push myself to the limit.”