Kronplatz

Tearful Mikaela Shiffrin has rare fall in World Cup race (video)

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SAN VIGILIO DI MAREBBE, Italy (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin doesn’t need to look at social media to see what people are saying about her.

After failing to finish two straight races with the Olympics rapidly approaching, the overall World Cup leader knows what her critics are thinking.

Shiffrin fell in the first run of Tuesday’s giant slalom, later won by German Viktoria Rebensburg. Full results here.

“I can see it in my mind, ‘Mikaela Shiffrin faltering before the Olympics.’ And, ‘The streak is coming to an end,'” Shiffrin said Tuesday. “But I’m not really worried about what other people think. That’s a different place that I’m in this year compared to last year.

“I’m not invincible. I’m fighting every single race and you start to hear people say, ‘It’s boring because Mikaela is winning everything.’ Well, it’s not boring today,” Shiffrin said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I am in a good place mentally and I don’t feel like today or the race in Cortina (Sunday’s super-G, in which she missed a gate) is a sign. There are logical explanations for why I DNF’d in both races.”

In the GS, Shiffrin lost control of her inside ski coming around a turn as she entered the toughest section of a slope named Erta, which translates as steep.

With a gradient of 61 percent in that section, Shiffrin slid a long way down the course but immediately got up and was not injured.

“These things happen,” said Jeff Lackie, one of Shiffrin’s coaches. “They don’t typically happen with Mikaela because she’s so consistent. But anytime you add speed you have to be that much more diligent about being well balanced over the outside ski.”

It marked the first time in more than six years that Shiffrin failed to finish two consecutive races.

The last time came in back-to-back slaloms in Courchevel, France, and Flachau, Austria, in December 2011 — before the American registered her first World Cup podium.

“Now is a good time if it has to happen,” Lackie said. “I would rather it happen now and give her the opportunity to recalibrate and refocus.”

Shiffrin had been undefeated in 2018 in the technical disciplines of GS, slalom and parallel slalom with five straight wins.

And while she has been dominant in slalom with seven wins in eight races this season, she has only won two of six GS races — with Rebensburg and Brignone also gathering multiple victories.

“There are many strong girls in the GS races,” Rebensburg said “It’s not just (Shiffrin).”

Still, Shiffrin was distraught after her error, retreating immediately to the team hotel without first stopping to review the race with her mother and coach, Eileen Shiffrin, as she usually does.

“I don’t think she should be too disappointed,” Eileen said. “She made a mistake getting on her inside ski. I’m sure she won’t do that again.”

Added Lackie: “You don’t need to drag your face through the mud. She knows what she did wrong. Failure is not fatal. We’ll move on.”

After collecting herself in her hotel room, Shiffrin eventually came down and discussed the race. To lift her spirits, she played with the 5-month-old son of her ski technician, Kim Erlandson, while she spoke.

“It’s really heartbreaking,” Shiffrin said, wiping away a tear or two. “Because out of all the runs that I ski — and I train more than probably anybody — I don’t crash and I don’t DNF. … I place so much emphasis on making every single turn perfect.”

Still, Shiffrin realizes that in the grand scheme of things, these races are not all that important.

While she dropped slightly behind Rebensburg in the giant slalom standings, Shiffrin still holds a massive 843-point lead over the German in the overall standings.

“Today is not the focus. The Olympics is the focus,” Shiffrin said. “But for me today is just a lesson to remember that nobody is invincible.”

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Mikaela Shiffrin’s overall standings lead trimmed again

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Mikaela Shiffrin placed fifth in a giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday and saw her World Cup overall standings lead drop to 130 points. The lead may disappear this weekend.

“I had a big struggle with my grip today,” Shiffrin said. “It was really, really bizarre because I’ve never had that kind of feeling where I wasn’t confident standing on my edges. We used the same setup and the same tuning that really works on this kind of snow. For some reason today, it was really, really off from the first gate.”

Shiffrin was ninth after the morning run in Kronplatz before improving to finish 1.09 seconds behind Italian winner Federica Brignone after two runs. France’s Tessa Worley was runner-up, .55 behind, followed by Italian Marta Bassino.

Shiffrin continued a consistent giant slalom season, though. She has placed sixth or better in all seven races this season, including two wins, and ranks second in the discipline’s season standings.

Shiffrin goes into the world championships next month as a favorite for medals in both slalom and giant slalom, a double that hasn’t been done by an American since 1982.

RACE RESULTS | RUN 2 REPLAY

Swiss Lara Gut was fourth on Tuesday to trim five points off Shiffrin’s overall standings lead. Gut is the defending World Cup overall champion, holder of the biggest annual prize in ski racing.

This year’s overall title chase is essentially a duel between Gut and Shiffrin, the latter to possibly become the third U.S. woman to take the crown (Tamara McKinneyLindsey Vonn).

Shiffrin has led the standings since November but could cede it this weekend with a downhill and super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy (NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app). Gut is stronger in those disciplines — averaging 70 points per race — while Shiffrin is selective on which downhills and super-G she enters.

Shiffrin had planned to enter Sunday’s super-G, but it’s still to be decided for sure, according to the U.S. Ski Team.

Even if Gut wins both of this weekend’s races, Shiffrin should take the overall standings lead back at a Stockholm slalom next Tuesday, the final race before the World Cup takes a break for the world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

The first five races after worlds in February are a downhill, two super-Gs and two combineds, a series that favors Gut. That will be the Swiss’ big opportunity to put distance between herself and Shiffrin before the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., in mid-March.

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