OFTERSCHWANG, Germany (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin can finally relax again.
After a tense build-up to the Olympics, the American won her second straight overall World Cup title on Friday, five races before the end of the season.
“It’s been a big battle for me mentally to know exactly where my focus should be,” said Shiffrin, who turns 23 on Tuesday. “It was quite a relief actually when the Olympics were over so I could focus on the rest of the World Cup season.”
Shiffrin won the Olympic gold medal in the giant slalom, and it was in Friday’s giant slalom that she clinched the overall World Cup title by finishing third. Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway, the Olympic silver medalist, won the race.
Even before her final run, Shiffrin was guaranteed of winning the title because her only remaining rival, Wendy Holdener, failed to finish in the top two, which she needed to maintain her mathematical title chance. The Swiss skier finished 14th.
“That’s really exciting, for sure. It’s hard to explain that feeling really,” said Shiffrin, who holds a 603-point lead over Holdener in the overall standings with only Saturday’s slalom and four races at next week’s World Cup finals in Sweden remaining.
“The best thing for me now is to have the crystal globe already locked in,” she said. “I can really just enjoy the last races and not have to fight for points to win the globe.
“After last year when I won the overall, actually some people were saying like it’s sort of fake because the other girls weren’t there and there was nobody to challenge her. So, to have the overall this year locked in already before we even go to finals, it feels like confirmation for me.”
Last season, Shiffrin clinched the World Cup overall title after her closest challenger, Swiss Lara Gut, suffered a season-ending ACL tear at the February World Championships.
Shiffrin is the second American female skier to win multiple overall titles. Lindsey Vonn won the sport’s most coveted prize four times.
Friday’s result came exactly two months after Shiffrin’s last victory in a World Cup race. She racked up a personal best 10 World Cup wins this season, but they all came in a relatively short 46-day spell between Nov. 25 and Jan. 9.
She was a clear favorite to successfully defend her maiden overall title since setting a World Cup record by winning the first five races of 2018.
However, she failed to win another race after triumphing at a night slalom in Flachau, Austria. A dip in form during her last five races before the PyeongChang Olympics saw her failing to finish three times and placing seventh twice.
In South Korea, she won Olympic gold in the giant slalom and silver in the combined event, but missed out on a medal in her strongest discipline, the slalom. She vomited before the start and later said that nerves played a role.
“I had goals for the slalom and GS globes, the overall globe, Olympic medals,” Shiffrin said Friday. “My next biggest goal was to be strong for the end of the season.”
In her first race after the Olympics, Shiffrin was fourth after the opening run but improved a spot to third, 0.74 seconds behind Mowinckel.
The Norwegian won Olympic silver medals in both giant slalom and downhill last month but called her first career World Cup win “the best feeling there is.”
“I’ve worked hard for this a really long time,” Mowinckel said. “I knew my skiing was solid.”
Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany finished 0.66 behind in second and closed in on the season title in the discipline. With one race remaining, she leads world giant slalom champion Tessa Worley of France by 92 points in the discipline standings.
Friday’s result stretched Rebensburg’s lead over Shiffrin to 101 points, leaving the American out of contention for the GS title.
However, Shiffrin could add another discipline globe this weekend, holding a 175-point lead over Petra Vlhova of Slovakia going into the penultimate slalom race of the season on Saturday (6:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA).
“For sure I have a big lead,” Shiffrin said. “But nothing is impossible, so I am going to stay focused.”
Shiffrin skipped last weekend’s super-G and super combined in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. As did Vonn, who is also missing this weekend’s technical events (not her specialties) but will return for the World Cup finals.
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