Mikaela Shiffrin won her first world championships giant slalom medal Thursday, also giving Team USA its first women’s giant slalom medal in 12 years at the 2017 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
The 2014 Olympic slalom champion earned the podium by doing something she’s never done before: complete two giant slalom runs at St. Moritz. In her three prior giant slalom races there, all world cup events, Shiffrin had recorded DNFs, the most recent coming last March.
The podium is the first in the event by an American woman since Julia Mancuso took bronze in 2005, a performance that broke a 20-year run without a medal, dating back to 1985 and Diann Roff Steinrotter’s gold.
“I wasn’t thinking about anything like that,” Shiffrin told NBC Sports when asked about breaking the U.S. medal drought in giant slalom. “I just wanted to ski well. The first run I felt like left something out on the hill, and the second run I really felt like I attacked. It was really fun to ski.”
Shiffrin’s first run put her solidly into third place, 0.72 seconds behind the leader, Tessa Worley of France, and 0.24 behind Italy’s Sofia Goggia. Shiffrin was 0.40 seconds faster than Goggia over the last section of the course in the final run, which proved to be the difference between silver and bronze: Shiffrin’s total time of 2:05.89 was exactly 0.40 ahead of Goggia. Worley won in 2:05.55, collecting her fourth world giant slalom medal, her second gold.
Prior to Friday’s performance, Shiffrin’s fifth place at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games was her best showing in giant slalom at an Olympic Games or world championships, though she has won two giant slalom world cup races this season and finished second at another.
Shiffrin now looks ahead to Saturday and her specialty, the slalom, where she will try to become only the fourth woman to win three consecutive world titles in an event.
“It’s not hard to carry momentum when you have good momentum going,” she said when asked about the upcoming slalom race. “I’m just going to try to ride this wave and keep this feeling going.”