On what she herself described as “a wild day,” Mikaela Shiffrin closed out her FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Sweden with the slalom title and her own little piece of history — one more to add to her growing pile of both.
Suffering from a chest cold, skiing on snow that she’d had trouble finding her bearings on in recent days and in third place halfway through her best event, the 23-year-old turned in an exemplary second run in true tough-get-going fashion, coming from behind to take her fourth consecutive world title in women’s slalom on the slopes of Are with a combined time of 1 minute, 57.05 seconds.
Shiffrin is no stranger to slalom gold, having won eight world cup slalom races since the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, including a streak of seven in a row. Of her 56 career world cup victories, 38 have come in slalom, a record among women.
She is now the only skier, male or female, to win four consecutive world titles in any event.
But victory in Are seemed by no means certain: earlier in the week, Shiffrin admitted that she had been struggling to get “a response from the surface” that had been pounded by rain due to unseasonably warm temperatures earlier in the week. A U.S. Ski Team spokeswoman added that Shiffrin was “low energy” as a result of her cold.
In fact, Shiffrin was coughing so hard before her second run that, her mother told her she was under no obligation to ski. Her response? “At what point do you say I can’t do 60 seconds of skiing?” she told NBC Sports afterward. “I'm out here, I want to do it, and whether I win or not I just wanted to try. And when she said you don’t have to, then I was sure that I wanted to.”
And she did. The only skier to cross the line in less than a minute on both descents, Shiffrin’s second run time of 59.82 seconds closed the 0.15-second gap between herself and course leader Wendy Holdener of Switzerland following the first run and put the pressure on Holdener to do even better. The 2018 Olympic slalom silver medalist, winner of the world title in alpine combined already this week, was unable to rise to Shiffrin’s challenge, dropping to 17th after veering off course.
Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson, in second position after the first run, gave the host crowd a thrill by taking her first individual medal in a total time of 1:57.63. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, Shiffrin’s biggest rival this season, moved from fifth after the first run to claim bronze with a combined time of 1:58.08.
Shiffrin, the overall leader in the world cup standings, won her fourth career world title last week in the super-G and earned bronze in the giant slalom on Thursday.
With the win on Saturday, Shiffrin ties Ted Ligety for the most world championships by an American alpine skier with five. She also ties Ligety with seven career world championships medals for second on the list. Among Americans, only Lindsey Vonn with eight has more.
Saturday’s win also makes Shiffrin one of just three U.S. women to win two world titles in one year, joining Vonn (2009) and Andrea Mead-Lawrence (1952).
She is also the 2014 Olympic slalom champion and 2018 Olympic giant slalom gold medalist and combined silver medalist.