Mikaela Shiffrin finished second in the last race of the most difficult season of her career, just missing her 70th career World Cup victory while making a 10th consecutive podium.
Shiffrin was runner-up to New Zealand’s Alice Robinson, .28 of a second behind. Shiffrin had the fastest first run, when she was .77 faster than the 19-year-old Kiwi.
Shiffrin gave up a first-run lead for the third time in her last five races, yet finished in the top three for a 10th race in a row dating to the start of February (including world championships).
“It’s been quite wild — a little bit beyond my hopes or dreams even,” she said of the season, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “There were a lot of moments I didn’t think we would do the season at all with the pandemic. I was also uncertain about myself personally. It’s quite incredible to be here now and have a good amount of success. It’s also a really big step to get back to this place to be fighting for the podiums in almost every race.”
Shiffrin had three wins among 10 podiums in 16 World Cup races this season, contesting strictly slaloms and giant slaloms in her lightest slate since an injury-shortened 2015-16 campaign.
At worlds, she won a record-tying four medals, including combined gold, cementing her as a contender for the same amount of medals at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Only one skier has earned four Alpine medals at a single Games — Croatian Janica Kostelic in 2002.
Shiffrin finished the winter ranked second in the world in slalom (behind Austrian Katharina Liensberger) and in GS (behind Italian Marta Bassino).
Shiffrin, while going 300 days between races following her father’s death on Feb. 2, 2020, questioned whether she could return to racing. She also suffered a back injury in preseason training. She called it “the first injury I’ve had that actually posed some threat to my career as a ski racer.”
“I feel like I had the most improvement this season, more than I ever had in my career,” she said on ORF.
Earlier Sunday, Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami made a curious exit in the opening GS run.
Gut-Behrami at first seemed to simply stop racing just a few seconds into her run, one day after she was confirmed as runner-up in the overall to Slovakian Petra Vlhova.
The Swiss star left broadcasters mystified when she skied out after the third gate.
Gut-Behrami, the overall World Cup champion in 2016, began to stand up straight approaching the gate, relaxed her arms and slowly skied back across the hill wide of the next gate.
It was a strange end to her impressive career revival in 2021. Since January, Gut-Behrami won six World Cup races — including four consecutive in super-G — plus two gold medals and a bronze at worlds.
“Lara didn’t have enough energy to give it all and didn’t want to take the risk to get injured and that’s the reason why she stopped,” Swiss team spokesman Jérôme Krieg said in a statement.
There was quick speculation that Gut-Behrami was making a protest against organizers after comments earlier in the week critical of the race week scheduling rules.
The downhill and super-G events — where Gut-Behrami is stronger than Vlhova — were canceled by difficult weather conditions on Wednesday and Thursday.
Krieg said fatigue was “the only reason [for stopping]. She’s happy about her season, that it is over now and that she is healthy.”
Gut-Behrami did not stop to speak with media in the finish area, and was due to return to the course for trophy presentations in the afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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