Mikaela Shiffrin has finished in second place 13 times on the World Cup — versus an incredible 66 victories — but Saturday’s runner-up brought the most pleasure of her decade-long career.
“There’s a name for when you go through really big tragedy in life and, after that, some pieces of your life may be a little bit better than they were before because your priorities change and you enjoy the moments with family more or you enjoy specific things more,” she said. “I enjoy a second place more than I ever did.”
Shiffrin returned from her longest break between ski races and resumed her rivalry with Petra Vlhova, finishing .18 of a second behind the Slovakian at a slalom in Levi, Finland.
Vlhova had the fastest time in each of the two runs. Shiffrin had the second-fastest time in each run, racing for the first time since Jan. 26 and her father’s death Feb. 2.
Austrian Katharina Liensberger took third.
The women race another slalom in Levi on Sunday. Peacock Premium live streams both runs. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs coverage at 6:45 a.m. ET, including the second run live.
Shiffrin, who contemplated her skiing future during the last 10 months, said the prevailing thought Thursday was happiness.
“It’s been really hard to imagine being here again and racing and being on the podium,” said Shiffrin, who felt emotions between runs when she realized she would not be getting a text message from her dad about she skied. “I almost didn’t dare to really imagine it because you don’t want to be disappointed again.”
Shiffrin and Vlhova combined to win the last 27 World Cup slaloms dating to January 2017 — 19 for Shiffrin and eight for Vlhova.
Vlhova has now won the last four World Cup slaloms, including three victories over Shiffrin. It’s the first time Shiffrin has gone three straight slalom starts without a victory since 2014, but she’s finished on the podium each time.
“There’s many things I can do better. I can go faster, all of that, but I had fun,” she said. “And I felt like I did some really good skiing, so that’s the most important thing right now.”
Vlhova benefited from having the second run set by her coach, and having more preseason training than Shiffrin. The American missed the season opener in October due to a back injury.
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