Maribor

Mikaela Shiffrin overcomes gate malfunction for bounce-back win

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Something strange happened during Mikaela Shiffrin‘s second and final run of a World Cup slalom on Sunday.

Shiffrin was skiing with a two tenths of a second lead when, all of a sudden, a red gate she cleared popped off in Maribor, Slovenia. It bounced off one of her ski poles and landed between her skis in the middle of the course.

Shiffrin cleared the next two gates with that broken red gate ricocheting at her boots. She eventually skied over that gate and left it behind her. Somehow, she only fell .09 behind at the next split time.

Shiffrin had fewer than 20 seconds to regain her speed and the lead. She did just that, and won by .19 of a second over Swiss Wendy Holdener.

“I saw a lot of gates were breaking when I was watching the other girls,” Shiffrin said. “I thought that, probably, it would happen for me as well. And it did, but with everybody else it seemed the gate went out of the way. For me, it just kept, like, getting stuck on my skis and my boots. So it was a bit distracting, but I don’t think it cost too much. I was focused.”

RUN 2 REPLAY | RACE RESULTS

With the win, Shiffrin notched an unprecedented feat.

Lindsey Vonn hasn’t done it. Neither has Ingemar StenmarkFranz Klammer or Alberto Tomba.

Shiffrin became the first skier to win five World Cup races in the same discipline, any discipline, in four straight years. She also won a handful of slaloms in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Remarkably, she doesn’t turn 22 years old for another two months.

In all, Shiffrin has raced 30 slaloms across the Olympics, world championships and World Cups the last four seasons. She has won 22 of them, including 14 of her last 15.

She bounced back Sunday from a stunning DNF in the previous slalom last Tuesday, which broke a personal 15-race winning streak in the discipline.

Shiffrin now owns 27 career World Cup victories, one more than Tina Maze and equal with Maria Höfl-Riesch, the retired skiers who were Vonn’s biggest rivals in their heyday.

She also increased her World Cup overall standings lead to 305 points over Swiss Lara Gut through 18 of a scheduled 37 races. However, more speed races than technical races remain this season. If Shiffrin and Gut repeat their average finishes per discipline the rest of the season, Shiffrin will win the overall title by about 25 points.

“One of my big goals that I want to accomplish is the overall,” said Shiffrin, who could become the third U.S. woman to take the biggest annual prize in ski racing (Tamara McKinney, Vonn). “And I don’t know if it happens this year, but eventually that will be a big goal. … Right now, my focus is more world championships, but, eventually it will be more overall, probably.”

Shiffrin will be favored in the next World Cup race, a night slalom in Flachau, Austria, on Tuesday.

Gut is expected to begin her ascent next weekend, with a downhill and combined in Zauchensee, Austria. Vonn and fellow U.S. Olympic champion Julia Mancuso, both coming back from major injuries, could make their season debuts there.

VIDEO: Tina Maze makes bizarre farewell in final race

Tina Maze bids farewell in bizarre fashion; Mikaela Shiffrin misses podium

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Olympic champion Tina Maze sounded like she might keep racing on Thursday, but what transpired Saturday certainly looked like a farewell.

Maze stopped twice during a World Cup giant slalom run in her native Slovenia.

First, she halted to hug her coaches midway down the Maribor course.

Then, she screeched inches before the end, took off her skis and lifted them in the air as she twirled across the finish line on foot. She also tossed her goggles into the adoring crowd.

Maze would have finished nearly 30 seconds behind first-run leader Mikaela Shiffrin, but she was given a DNF, which could mark the end of her storied career. Unless Maze changes her mind, as she teased two days earlier.

Shiffrin ended up fourth after two runs, despite having the fastest first run by .07. The youngest Olympic slalom champion fell behind French winner Tessa Worley, Italian Sofia Goggia and Swiss rival Lara Gut after a slower second run.

“I’m still learning,” Shiffrin said, “so, all in all, it’s not a terrible day.”

RESULTS | RUN 2 REPLAY

Shiffrin had won two giant slaloms in Semmering, Austria, last week and was looking to cushion her World Cup overall lead over Gut.

Instead, Gut gained 10 points on Shiffrin, moving 205 points back after 17 of a scheduled 37 races. Shiffrin is ahead in part because the first half of the season includes more technical races — her favorite slaloms and giant slaloms — than speed races of downhill and super-G.

If Shiffrin and Gut repeat their average results for each discipline for the final 20 races, Gut will take the overall title by about seven points.

Shiffrin, 21, has downplayed talk of going for the overall title this season — she even skipped speed races in December — but she could become the third U.S. woman to take the biggest annual crown in ski racing (Tamara McKinneyLindsey Vonn).

Finally on Saturday, a rarity. Sabrina Simader became the first Kenyan to compete in a World Cup race.

Simader, an 18-year-old who reportedly moved to Austria at age 3, was last of the 61 finishers in the first run, 8.14 seconds behind Shiffrin, and didn’t qualify for the second run.

The women race a slalom in Maribor on Sunday.

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Mikaela Shiffrin wins Maribor slalom, snags World Cup lead in teenage finale (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin won her 13th World Cup race in her final scheduled start as a teenager, moving into the World Cup slalom standings lead in rainy Maribor, Slovenia, on Sunday.

Shiffrin, who became the youngest Olympic slalom champion in Sochi, prevailed by 1.03 seconds over two runs for her fourth World Cup win this season. Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova was second, followed by Czech Sarka Strachova.

Shiffrin said she likes skiing in the rain.

“I have really good goggles,” she joked a finish-area interview.

Shiffrin moved into sole possession of third place in World Cup wins by active female skiers. The only ones with more are Lindsey Vonn (64) and Tina Maze (26).

Vonn won the first of those 64 at age 20. Maze had one victory as a teenager. The only female skier with more World Cup wins as a teenager than Shiffrin was Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell, who took 27 en route to 62 total victories.

Vonn and Maze own wins in all five disciplines, while Shiffrin has only contested two of the five (slalom and giant slalom) and scrapped a plan to add super-G earlier this season when she struggled with her slalom.

“I’m hesitant, I don’t want to rush the super-G because I’m doing pretty well in slalom and [giant slalom] right now,” Shiffrin, who owns one World Cup giant slalom win from October, said in a press conference Sunday. “In my perfect world, I would be winning both slalom and GS consistently and then move into super-G. So, if I go too fast with that, then I won’t get any of it.”

Shiffrin regained her form in the slalom earlier this winter, repeating as World champion two weeks ago and surpassing Swede Frida Hansdotter for the World Cup slalom standings lead Sunday. She went from 41 points behind to 30 points ahead of Hansdotter, who was ninth Sunday.

There are two World Cup slaloms remaining — March 13 in Are, Sweden (Shiffrin’s 20th birthday) and in Meribel, France at the World Cup Finals one week later.

Shiffrin is trying to win a third straight World Cup slalom season title. The last woman to do that was Vreni Schneider, who took the last of her six World Cup titles in 1995. The only women since 1996 to capture three straight titles in any discipline are Vonn and six-time Olympic medalist Janica Kostelic.

Also Sunday, Austrian Matthias Mayer prevailed in a super-G in Saalbach, Austria. Mayer, the Olympic downhill champion, won for the second straight day. France’s Adrien Theaux was second, followed by Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud. Travis Ganong was the top American in ninth.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup continues with two super-Gs and a super combined in Bansko, Bulgaria, next weekend. Vonn is expected to race, if healthy following her Saturday fall.

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