The inevitable became reality on Red Dog course in Squaw Valley, California, as Mikaela Shiffrin completed her march to a fourth slalom world cup crystal globe in five years by winning Saturday afternoon in dominating fashion.
Three weeks after winning her third straight slalom world title, Shiffrin picked up her sixth slalom win and seventh podium of the season to secure the crystal globe and turn next weekend’s season finale into a victory lap in Aspen, Colorado, a two-hour drive from her home in Eagle-Vail.
Two days shy of her 22nd birthday, the 2014 Olympic gold medalist becomes only the second skier to win four slalom globes before turning 22, joining the legendary Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden.
As things played out, Shiffrin had the globe clinched before she left the starting gate. Her closest competition in the standings, Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova, did not finish her first run, closing out any mathematical possibility of overtaking Shiffrin.
“I though ‘OK, so now I have the globe. I still want to have a good race today,’” she told the Associated Press after the first run. “I was sort of struggling in my mind with how much effort I need to put into it, how much risk I needed to take.”
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That struggle was evident in her skiing as she did not display the smooth, rhythmic skiing for which she is known. As a result, she found herself 0.02 seconds behind Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener after a first run that saw eight of the first 30 skiers not make it to the finish line.
“I don’t have a ton of energy right now,” she noted. “I don’t have enough to make a good recovery if I happen to make a mistake. I took a bit off the gas pedal in order to find a rhythm and it took a little bit longer than I would’ve liked. But it was a solid run and I didn’t make any big mistakes.”
Shiffrin stayed away from the big mistakes on her second run, building time in the bottom of the course to take a 1.03-second lead over Czech Republic’s Sarka Strachova with Holdener still to come. Sensing that she was losing time in the bottom part of the course, Holdener pressed too hard and tumbled with three gates remaining, becoming the eighth skier to ski out in the second run.
Shiffrin posted a total time of 1:39.48. Austria’s Bernadette Schild was third, 1.08 behind. The win gave Shiffrin a sweep of both races contested in Squaw Valley this weekend after taking Friday’s giant slalom.
Saturday marked Shiffrin’s 104th world cup start and her 31st career victory, the 22nd in slalom. Putting things in perspective, Saturday was Shiffrin’s 50th slalom world cup start, giving her a .440 winning percentage. She’s won 16 of her last 20 world cup slalom races, a .800 winning percentage, and missed the podium only three times.