When Mikaela Shiffrin heard an announcer declare her the winner — for the first time since January — the first feeling was sadness.
Shiffrin earned her 67th victory — tying for third on the all-time list — and her first since the Feb. 2 death of her father, taking a giant slalom in Courchevel, France, on Monday.
She prevailed by .82 of a second over Italian Federica Brignone combining times from two runs. Shiffrin had a subdued reaction, later dropping to her knees.
“After everything, it’s hard to believe that I could get back to this point,” she said in one of several emotional post-race interviews. “I’m really excited, but it’s also pretty sad because … I guess that’s obvious. So I guess we say bittersweet. That’s a little bit the name of the day.”
France’s Tessa Worley took third behind Shiffrin, who tied recently retired (but sparking comeback speculation) Austrian Marcel Hirscher at 67 World Cup wins. Only Ingemar Stenmark (86) and Lindsey Vonn (82) have more victories.
“It feels like the first win of my life,” Shiffrin said. “67, that makes it seem like today is just another day in the journey, and it doesn’t feel like that.”
“It’s still a work in progress,” Shiffrin said after posting the fastest first run by .07 over Italian Marta Bassino. “There’s still some pieces where my brain is like, I don’t know, going somewhere away from the course for a second, and then I have to come back. It takes a lot of energy to keep my focus.”
Shiffrin sat out the rest of the 2019-20 World Cup races after the death of her father, Jeff. She missed this season’s first race, also a GS, in Austria on Oct. 17 after tweaking her back in training. Shiffrin then placed second, fifth and fourth in her first three starts — after a 300-day break between races — coming into Monday.
“I’m really proud,” she said. “I’m happy also for my team and coaches and everybody who has been working so hard to basically lift me up and get me back to this point. Some days I feel like they have to carry me to the start and just send me down the course and pick me back up in the finish.”
Rival Petra Vlhova won two of those early races with Shiffrin, grabbing hold of the World Cup overall standings lead. But the Slovakian struggled in her first run Monday and skied out just before the finish.
Bassino won the season’s previous two GS races, but she fell late in the second run.
The World Cup moves to Val d’Isere for two downhills and a super-G next weekend. Shiffrin is sitting out speed races for now. Her next start will likely come Dec. 28 in Semmering, Austria.
Cheers to the wonderful and kind people who said I lost my fire forever. This one’s for you. Also this one’s for every single person who is helping me get the fire back. pic.twitter.com/PeJvNmiQli
— Mikaela Shiffrin (@MikaelaShiffrin) December 14, 2020
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