Set to ski ahead of her two fastest competitors from run one, Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener and Sweden’s Anna Swenn-Larsson, the U.S.’ Mikaela Shiffrin, who had fought through violent coughing fits in her first run, was pulled aside by her mom to say it was O.K. if she didn’t ski her second.
“My mom said to me before the second run, ‘You don’t have to do this,'” Shiffrin said. “I was coughing so hard that my stomach was in spasms, and I couldn’t breathe, and then I kept coughing more.
“At what point do you say, No, I can’t do 60 seconds of skiing. I’m out here. I want to do it and whether I win or not, I just wanted to try. And when she said, You don’t have to, then I was sure that I wanted to.”
Skiing for her record-setting fourth consecutive world slalom title, Shiffrin went all-in, raising the stakes in the two-run race and crossed the finish in first, taking over the top spot by more than a second.
After completing her fight with her body and the mountain, Shiffrin collapsed to the snow, coughing and gasping to catch her breath.
With the final outcome now out of her control, Shiffrin watched, hoping her lead would hold.
Swenn-Larsson followed Shiffrin, but was unable to find the speed to knock Shiffrin out of first. Despite missing the top spot by .62 hundredths of a second, Swenn-Larsson was greeted like a champion by the home crowd as she won the first medal for Sweden at these world championships.
Holdener was next on course, but just moments into her run, it became clear Shiffrin would prevail. Making her 11th turn on course, Holdener came off a gate wide and was forced to hit the brakes. Holdener would finish her second run well off the pace set by Shiffrin, falling all the way to 17th.
“I knew I had to fight really hard the second run because Anna and Wendy are so strong,” a tearful Shiffrin told NBC Sports after her run. “The girls behind me were also really close. I just figured I have to be tough and try it and I just need 60 seconds to push, and I can do that for 60 seconds.”
Shiffrin gets her second win of these world championships. Her first came in the first race of the event, the Super-G. Shiffrin was also on the giant slalom podium, winning bronze in the same discipline in which she leads her competitors by a considerable margin on the World Cup points list.
The 2019 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships wraps up in Are tomorrow morning with the men’s slalom. Watch the first run live at 5:00 a.m. ET on TV and streaming on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold, with an encore presentation on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET. The second run gets started at 8:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.