All Hail the (Snow) Queen
The FIS Ski World Cup race in Zagreb, Croatia is known as the “Snow Queen Trophy”—for both Saturday’s women’s slalom race and Sunday’s men’s edition. It is a favorite stop of the women and men on the tour, where both tours collide in the unlikely, eclectic and bustling capital city of Croatia.
All four (of the six) times Reigning Snow Queen Mikaela Shiffrin finished, she’s won on this Sljeme track in Zagreb. In fact, of those four wins—which came in in 2013, 2015, 2018 and 2019—Mikaela’s average margin of victory is 1.43 seconds. Take that in for a second. ONE POINT FOUR THREE SECONDS!! That’s an eternity in ski racing. She loves the typically icy conditions, and it’s these conditions—as ice like that is rarely seen on the women’s circuit outside of Killington, Vt.—where she excels and separates herself from the field (for example, the 2.29-second margin of victory in Killington). Ice is nice for this Snow Queen!
Coming off a big, statement-making Lienz, Austria, series sweep, Mikaela (and teammate Paula Moltzan) got some training in at Obdach, Austria, over the new year. And just when Mikaela said, “Blame it on the BOOGIE” she meant it, with a fall in slalom training followed by a post on Instagram that said, “Boogie got me good today 🙄🙄 #2020ComingInHot”. Thankfully, apart from a bit of a sore hip, Mikaela is OK and will be starting in Saturday’s slalom. All hail the Snow Queen!!
A lot has been said of the dominance of Mikaela—extremely rare in a sport where winners and non-podium finishers are separated by hundredths, rife with variables (wind, sun, snow, visibility, etc.). Here's a fun stat: since the start of the 2017-18 season, there have been 21 slalom races. Mikaela has won 18, gotten second twice, and DNFed just once. That's an 86% rate over a massive 2 1/2 season timespan. Take that in for a minute or two. With her slalom victory over Slovakia's Petra Vlhova in Lienz, Mikaela became the first alpine skier to claim 14 straight World Cup slalom podiums.
Here’s the rundown of stats for the weekend:
Mikaela Shiffrin has won an all-time record 43 World Cup slalom races. Only Ingemar Stenmark (46 in giant slalom) has won more than 43 World Cup races in a single discipline (Lindsey Vonn has also 43 wins in the downhill).
Mikaela has won 64 World Cup races, second place on the all-time women's list. Lindsey Vonn holds the women's record of 82 race wins.
The last 23 women's World Cup slalom races were either won by Mikaela (19) or Petra Vlhová (4), since retired Frida Hansdotter won in Flachau on 10 January 2017.
Mikaela has recorded a top-two finish in 22 of the last 23 women's World Cup slalom races, including in each of the last 14 since a 'DNF' in Lenzerheide on 28 January 2018.
Mikaela has won the women's Zagreb slalom a joint-record four times in the World Cup, alongside childhood hero Marlies Schild. On the men's side, Marcel Hirscher has won the honor (yes, of "Snow Queen Trophy") five times.
Mikaela’s four wins in Zagreb came in the last five editions, with the exception of Veronika Velez-Zuzulová's win on 3 January 2017. Mikaela could win five World Cup slalom races in a single ski resort for the first time. She has now won four times in Zagreb, Levi, Åre, and Killington.
Wendy Holdener has collected 23 World Cup podium finishes in the slalom but has yet to claim her first victory. This is currently the record for most World Cup podiums in a single discipline without winning, five more than the previous record by Hubert Strolz (18) in the men's giant slalom.
Only three women have finished second in a World Cup slalom race more often than Wendy (12): Frida Hansdotter (17), Pernilla Wiberg (14) and Veronika Velez-Zuzulová (13). Three of these women—Wendy, Frida, and Veronika—all have raced in the era of Mikaela Shiffrin.
Rounding out the women's roster for the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team is slalom specialist Paula Moltzan, who was 12th in the first run in Zagreb last year before DNFing second run. She likes this track, and the usual hard-packed icy surface suits her aggressive style. It reminds her of her midwest upbringing at Buck Hill, Minn. and her east coast college days at the University of Vermont, where she skied for the Catamounts. Remember, ice is nice! Paula struggled in Lienz, Austria, DNFing in the top section of the course, but now that she’s got that out of her system she’s ready to rock on the Sljeme track. The rest of the team, including Nina O’Brien, are back stateside getting some NorAm starts—and confidence—in their arsenal for when they return to Europe soon.
On the men’s side, Luke Winters, who was second behind eventual race winner Alexis Pinturault in the first run of the Val d’Isere, France slalom, and ended up grabbing his career-first World Cup points in 19th, will return to action. He and teammate River Radamus have been skiing fast in training, and they're looking forward to taking on this busy month of racing, possibly being joined by another team member, as Luke’s result in Val d’Isere scored the U.S. slalom men another start spot. Watch France's Clément Noël this weekend...think he's got some redemption up his sleeves this weekend.
Check out all the details about who and how to watch below.
HOW TO WATCH
All Times EST
Saturday, Jan. 4
6:30 a.m. - Women’s slalom run 1, Zagreb, CRO - Olympic Channel.com, NBC Sports Gold
10:00 a.m. - Women’s slalom run 2, Zagreb, CRO - Olympic Channel, Olympic Channel.com, NBC Sports Gold
2:00 p.m. - Women’s slalom, Zagreb, CRO - NBCSN*
Monday, Jan. 6
1:00 a.m. - Men’s slalom, Zagreb, CRO - NBCSN**
Note: All televised events to stream across NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app, OlympicChannel.com, and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA app
Exclusive commercial-free coverage will be available for subscribers of the NBC Sports Gold Pass, available here: https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/snow