For all the lead-up talk about Mikaela Shiffrin‘s medal possibilities at the Olympics, she said at the end of her season that her primary objective was about all of the races before and after the Games.
“I had quite a few goals, but my biggest goal was the overall globe,” she said after winning a fourth World Cup overall title last week, tying Lindsey Vonn for second-most in women’s history. “Then the next biggest goal, or goals, would have been some performance at the Olympics. Obviously that was something I really kind of messed up.”
Shiffrin, whose best finish in five individual Olympic races was ninth, returned to Europe after the Games with a miniscule 17-point lead over Slovakian Petra Vlhova in the overall standings.
The overall title goes to the skier who accumulates the most points based on results over every race during the October-to-March World Cup season, which does not include the Olympics. This season, it was 37 races.
It is the biggest annual prize in ski racing. The winner is generally regarded as the world’s best all-around skier.
As opposed to the Olympics, which crown a gold medalist who performs the best under one day’s conditions, including variable weather, surface and course setup. The World Cup often carries more weight in Europe, where ski racing is followed more closely on a seasonal basis.
Before this season began, Shiffrin said the overall wasn’t her “highest focus” and that she wanted to see where she stood in the middle of the campaign to assess her chances.
“My really top focus, that’s the thing that’s driving all of my decisions, is if I’m able to ski slalom and [giant slalom] on my top level of skiing,” she said in October of her two primary disciplines. “If I feel that it’s not there, then I will take away some speed races or this or that, or even say maybe the overall globe is not something that I want to do, because the first thing I want to do is ski well when I’m racing.”
After the Olympics, Shiffrin took a risk in skipping the first World Cup races, a pair of downhills in Switzerland the weekend after the Closing Ceremony. It wasn’t a surprise. Not just to recover after the Games, but also because Shiffrin has never raced a downhill-only World Cup stop. Downhill is her least successful of the four primary Alpine skiing disciplines.
Vlhova, who in the 2020-21 season won the overall while entering every race (a rarity), drew level with Shiffrin in this season’s overall standings going into the final eight races.
Shiffrin outperformed her longtime slalom rival over the last three weeks, mathematically clinching the overall title in unexpected fashion — placing first and second in the World Cup Finals downhill and super-G. Of Shiffrin’s 74 World Cup race victories, seven are in those two speed events.
It marked Shiffrin’s first overall title since she three-peated in 2019, when she won a record 17 races over the season. The following year, her father died unexpectedly. Then COVID hit. Then she dealt with a back injury that posed a threat to her career as she knew it. Then in December, she tested positive for COVID with mild symptoms and quarantined for a week. Then came the Olympic disappointment.
“Maybe more special, but also just in general more emotional,” she said of this year’s 20-pound crystal globe, compared to the others. “There’s also a certain level of kind of sadness that comes with it, too.”
Time after time, Shiffrin returned from her absences and disappointments and stepped back onto the top of a World Cup podium. She is now eight wins shy of Vonn’s women’s record for victories, and 12 wins away from the overall record held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark.
“I feel a mix of motivation and also just general fatigue. This has not been a very energizing season,” she said. “I need to kind of reset a little bit. Then start to build back from the ground up because it was something I probably needed in the middle of the season but never actually got the chance.
“I have kind of a mixture of motivation and lack of motivation. I think that’s also how I felt every season.”
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