Petra Vlhova

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Mikaela Shiffrin’s rivals don’t believe they can beat her for overall title

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SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — With Mikaela Shiffrin’s dominance in the Alpine skiing World Cup increasing each year, some of her main competitors don’t seem to hold out much hope of beating the American standout for the overall title.

Like Wendy Holdener, who was runner-up to Shiffrin two years ago and third last season.

“I don’t think about the overall at the moment. If it could be a battle, it would be great,” the Swiss skier told The Associated Press on Thursday before the season starts with a giant slalom on the Rettenbach glacier (Saturday, 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold).

Or Sofia Goggia, who has finished in the top three overall a few times before a fractured ankle halted her challenge for most of last season.

“The goal is to confirm myself on the speed side. But I am not thinking about the overall,” the Italian said.

It will likely leave Petra Vlhova as Shiffrin’s main challenger again. The Slovakian technical specialist won five races last season and even beat Shiffrin once in the American’s strongest discipline, slalom. Vlhova ended the season as the runner-up, but trailed Shiffrin by 801 points.

That was the American’s biggest season-ending margin so far. Shiffrin led Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia by 274 points for her first big crystal globe in 2017, and the difference grew to 671 points over Holdener the next year.

What followed was a record-breaking season, including 17 World Cup wins to raise her career tally to 60, third on the all-time winners list of the women’s World Cup. While Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell is within reach with 62 career wins, Shiffrin probably won’t catch Lindsey Vonn this season. The retired four-time overall champions has 82 wins.

Apart from her third straight overall title, Shiffrin won the season titles in slalom, GS and super-G.

“Last season was huge and it was almost too much, so I think I have to be a little bit realistic, too,” Shiffrin said about replicating her achievement.

What separates the upcoming season from the previous three is the lack of a major medal competition. With no Olympics or world championships in February 2020, Shiffrin might choose to step up her efforts in super-G and downhill.

“It actually gives an opportunity to test out a little bit more what I am able to do in speed,” she said. “I feel more comfortable to push there because you don’t have to be safe for a world championship.”

While her build-up to the season has been similar to previous years and her team, led by head coach Mike Day, has remained unchanged, something will be different: mother Eileen, also one of her coaches, won’t travel the whole circuit this season as she is also taking care of her 98-year-old mother.

“But I selfishly asked her when she is able to come, to travel and be with me because she has been a huge piece of my success,” Shiffrin told the AP in a recent interview at the office of her equipment supplier, Atomic.

“Somebody who is so close to me, my mother is my best friend and also an incredible coach. I think that sets me apart from the other athletes,” Shiffrin said. “It sounds a bit selfish but I don’t want to let that go.”

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GOGGIA’S GOALS

Goggia, the Olympic downhill champion, saw her quest for last season’s overall title end before the first race. A broken ankle kept her out until late January, but she returned with a bang, winning super-G silver at the world championships and a World Cup downhill in Switzerland the following month.

“The first races last season were a surprise but when you start with no real expectations, everything can happen,” Goggia said. “When you have your back and your shoulders against the wall, you got one chance to do the right thing. So when it comes to being a shooter, I am a good shooter.”

Goggia’s injury forced her to sit out all but two giant slaloms last season, meaning she has dropped out of the top 30 in the discipline rankings and will get an unfavorable late start position in Saturday’s race.

“I am going to start far behind. I really have no expectations but I have been working a lot,” the Italian said. “In super-G and downhill I am OK, so I am pretty confident and solid.”

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HOLDENER’S HOPE

Having added a few extra days of speed training to her offseason schedule in Zermatt in her native Switzerland, Holdener might increase her number of starts in super-G and downhill.

“It’s difficult to have, like, five disciplines. We will see how the season is starting, which events I am doing in speed. Normally I won’t do a lot of downhills,” she said.

Make no mistake, slalom and GS remain her main events.

“In GS I am top seven but the best girls are still a little bit in front of me,” she said. “Last season sometimes I skied really good and then I took a step back. You shouldn’t do that. You should fight until the finish.”

One of Holdener’s biggest wishes is to finally get that first win in slalom. She amassed 22 top-three results but is yet to win a race.

No skier, male or female, has ever had more World Cup podiums in a single discipline without a win.

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MORE: 2019-20 Alpine skiing TV, live stream schedule

Mikaela Shiffrin breaks 30-year World Cup single-season win record

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Taking a victory lap the only way she knows how, the U.S.’ Mikaela Shiffrin rewrote the World Cup record books with her 15th win of the season. In 53 World Cup seasons no man or woman has won more than 14 races. Until now.

Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider had held the record after winning 14 races of her own during the 1988-89 World Cup campaign.

The win is Shiffrin’s sixth World Cup slalom win of the season, further justifying her dominance in the discipline on tour which extends back to 2013.

Shiffrin had already clinched her third overall World Cup title, as well as her third-consecutive slalom crystal globe. Any World Cup points picked up in today’s race would only add to her stifling control of the leaderboard.

After the first run this morning through falling Czech snow, Shiffrin held the lead by just over three tenths, with Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener in second, and Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter in third, nearly a second and a half behind Shiffrin. Hansdotter recently announced her plans to retire from competition at the end of the season.

In the second run, Holdener came out attacking, skiing just ahead of Shiffrin. Holdener made it cleanly through the top section of the course which kept many of the top slalom skiers of the day off balance, including Hansdotter, who’s mistakes landed her off the podium in seventh. Holdener crossing the finish line with the lead by more than a second.

However, Shiffrin had the final say, and came out on top with a clean run more than eight tenths faster than Holdener. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova finished in third, more than two seconds behind Shiffrin.  

Full results are here.

Prior to racing this week, Shiffrin had been holed up in Italy, training and resting ahead of the final two weeks of the season. She teased fans by posting a photo of herself holding up a pair of skis on Facebook with the caption “P.S. Yes, these are my super-G skis,” which all but confirms she will attempt to win the tightly contested super-G globe next week in Andorra. Shiffrin currently clings to a 32-point lead over Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein in the standings.

In addition to the super-G crystal globe, Shiffrin also has the opportunity to win the giant slalom season title.

Speaking after her third-place finish in this Friday’s giant slalom in Spindleruv Mlyn, Shiffrin explained, despite her 97-point cushion in the GS standings, she must stay focused if she expects hold off her Slovakian rival, Vlhova. Vlhova won on Friday, skiing six tenths faster than Shiffrin.

“I think there is still something possible at the finals so I won’t celebrate yet. But I am really happy to have this kind of advantage,” said Shiffrin according to the Associated Press. “Slalom, overall and GS are my biggest goals this year so it’s an incredible place to be right now.”

The World Cup men were racing in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia today where Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen got the win in giant slalom, his third win and sixth podium appearance in a GS race this season. Austria’s Marcel Hirscher finished off the podium in sixth. A win would have allowed Hirscher to clinch his eighth-consecutive World Cup overall title, but that will now have to wait at least a day.

Kristoffersen’s countryman Rasmus Windingstad landed on his first World Cup podium, finishing in second. Windingstad jumped up five spots to make the podium with his second run performance.

Full results are here.

Hirscher gets another chance at the overall title tomorrow as racing continues in Slovenia with the men’s slalom. The first run is scheduled to begin at 4:30 a.m. ET and the second at 7:30 a.m. ET. Watch the first run live on OlympicChannel.com or with an NBC Sports Gold Snow Pass. The second run will air live on Olympic Channel on TV and streaming with coverage also available on NBC Sports Gold.

Beginning on Wednesday, the 2018-19 World Cup season finale gets underway in Andorra with the men’s and women’s downhill.

To see Shiffrin attempt to win two more crystal globes this season, watch the women’s super-G on Thursday and Sunday’s giant slalom.

Check out the full schedule below for times, events and where to watch live on TV and streaming.

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP FINAL — Soldeu, Andorra

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Wednesday 5:30 a.m. Men’s & Women’s Downhill Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
12:30 p.m. Men’s & Women’s Downhill* NBCSN
Thursday 5:30 a.m. Men’s & Women’s Super-G Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
11:00 p.m. Men’s & Women’s Super-G* NBCSN
Friday 7:00 a.m. Team Event Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 4:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 4:30 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
3:30 p.m. Women’s Giant Slalom* NBCSN

 

Shiffrin closes in on season title; Vlhova wins giant slalom

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SPINDLERUV MLYN, Czech Republic — Mikaela Shiffrin closed in on her first women’s World Cup giant slalom trophy Friday after placing third in the penultimate race of the season, which was won by world champion Petra Vlhova.

Shiffrin leads her Slovakian rival by 97 points in the discipline standings with only one event remaining at next week’s World Cup Finals in Soldeu, Andorra. A race win is worth 100 points.

“I think there is still something possible at the finals so I won’t celebrate yet. But I am really happy to have this kind of advantage,” said Shiffrin, who has already successfully defended her overall and slalom titles.

After three overall and six slalom championships, it would be the 10th career crystal globe and third of the season for Shiffrin, who is also in the hunt for the super-G title.

“Slalom, overall and GS are my biggest goals this year so it’s an incredible place to be right now,” the American said.

Vlhova built on her commanding first-run lead of nearly a half-second to beat Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany by 0.11 seconds.

Shiffrin, who was 1.33 behind in fourth after the opening run, posted the fastest time in the final run and improved to third, 0.60 behind Vlhova. Tessa Worley of France, who was runner-up in the GS standings before the race, finished seventh to drop out of contention.

It was Shiffrin’s first race in 17 days after sitting out events in Crans-Montana and Sochi to recharge following the world championships and a parallel city event in Sweden.

Returning to the resort where she started her World Cup career at the age of 15 in 2011, Shiffrin struggled in the opening run. She started aggressively and led Vlhova by 0.13 at the first split time, but failed to find a smooth rhythm in the rest of her run and trailed by 1.33 in fourth.

“When I saw the video (from the first run) I was pretty disappointed,” Shiffrin said. “To compete with the best, with Vicky and Petra, I had to do better on everything.”

After finishing her second run well ahead of the competition, Shiffrin bent forward and briefly screamed for relief.

“The second run was much, much better so I am really happy with that,” she said. “So happy to have a podium.”

Initially a slalom specialist, Vlhova has evolved into a leading giant slalom contender, winning her first World Cup races in the discipline in Semmering and Maribor this season. Vlhova added gold at last month’s world championships, where she and Rebensburg finished 1-2.

On Friday, Vlhova impressed in both runs with a strong recovery from a mistake.

“I knew I did a big mistake but I had a really good feeling in the steep part,” she said between runs. “In the last part I just let my skis go and I was really fast.”

Vlhova repeated the feat in the final run. She quickly lost four-tenths of her advantage over Rebensburg and even trailed the former Olympic champion from Germany by 0.15 halfway through her run, but skied a solid bottom section to get the green light at the finish.

“It was not easy but I did it and it’s something amazing,” said Vlhova, loudly cheered by many of her Slovakian fans. “It’s something special because I feel like at home here. Those fans (are) something amazing.”

A slalom on the same course is scheduled for Saturday.