Shiffrin Grabs Victory 64 To Sweep Lienz Series
On December 29, 2011, Mikaela Shiffrin earned her first World Cup podium in Lienz, Austria. Fast forward eight years to the exact day—December 29, 2019—in Lienz, where Mikaela won her 64th victory and her 43rd slalom victory on Sunday.
Wow. Just WOW.
Slovakia's Petra Vlhova skied two strong runs on Sunday, but despite giving it her all, she just couldn't best Mikaela—who was on a mission and skiing out of her mind, after a disappointing result in Courchevel, France a week ago. Switzerland's Michelle Gisin rounded out the podium in third with her first-career World Cup slalom podium. Michelle has been struggling of late, posting on Instagram after Saturday's race, "Going through kind of a rough time right now...but you know, this too shall pass." And pass it did.
Mikaela and Petra have a friendly rivalry, and in this rivalry both competitors push each other, learn from each other, and—as a result—elevate the sport of alpine ski racing together. “Petra has been one of the girls who has been able to beat me when I’ve been skiing really well,” Mikaela spoke of their rivalry. “Her skiing is super strong, and she’s motivated and she has this fire. I have a lot of respect for her and what her team does to be able to push her level, because that pushes my level too.”
The conditions on Sunday were great, and the surface was fast. Both courses were quick sets, and there were some tricky combinations the athletes don’t normally see. Mikaela was watching Petra from the start, “When I saw Petra go on the second run, I was watching from the start and I was thinking, ‘Oh no, I can’t ski it that fast, well...I guess all I can do is try.’ When I have that mindset just to go for it, and I can feel the good skiing, then it’s always really, really satisfying to come into the finish and see it worked out.”
Petra was building on her already over nine tenths lead throughout the entire course, crossing the finish line with a 1.11 lead over Michelle. All indications were pointing towards a victory with the run Petra laid down. But Mikaela had other plans. Skiing clean and strong to cross the finish line with a .61 margin of victory, Mikaela screamed and threw her hands up in celebration while Petra stood, seemingly stunned and confused, like a deer in the headlights. In the post-victory press conference, Petra said she thought after her run, “Wow, maybe today I could beat Miki.”
After what Mikaela describes as a “heartbreaking” day in Courchevel, Mikaela came to Lienz rested and well-prepared with some solid giant slalom and slalom training under her belt. The realization that she “wasn’t really strong enough to go to Val d’Isere and race the way that I wanted to and I had to pull back,” was a tough pill for Mikaela to swallow.
Throughout the week, fans and media posted both words of encouragement as well doubt on social media. “Has she lost her touch?” “Maybe she won’t actually ever reach Stenmark’s record!” and “It’s lame that she skipped the races—ski racing is her job!” were just a few of the comments that were shared on social. Mikaela tried to maintain her focus during her training block, as well as spend some “soul-healing” time with family and her team over Christmas to drown out the noise. And then she did what Mikaela does when the noise gets loud...she skied faster. Not only did she win...she won in a BIG way.
Not only did Mikaela sweep the Lienz series, but she won all four runs—a level of dominance so rare in a sport that comes down to hundredths—and she won by a collective margin of almost two seconds. Again, a rarity in a sport where the winner and fourth place can be decided in the time span of a blink of the eye.
To say that Mikaela made a statement in Lienz, would be an understatement. Mikaela laid down some of the best skiing in the history of the sport, to walk away with back-to-back victories and prove to the world that, yes—ski racing is her job, and she does a better job at her job than anyone else. “I don’t really have words,” reflected Mikaela. “Last week the training was really good. I think that the work my team did—what we all did together—was really strong and I think it’s just special to come here and show that. Today was, again, a really special day and I knew that nothing less than 110% was going to be fast enough for this race and I know how strong Petra is skiing, so I was trying to keep myself focused and not get nervous.” But, as we know, Mikaela has learned to manage her nerves.
Mikaela has extended her lead in the overall standings to 295 points over Italy’s Federica Brignone and sits first in the slalom standings, with 300 points—140 points ahead of Petra. Sunday’s Stats: Mikaela Shiffrin has won an all-time record 43 World Cup slalom races, tied with Lindsey Vonn (43 in downhill). Only Ingemar Stenmark (46 in giant slalom) has won more than 42 World Cup races in a single discipline. On 29 December 2011, Shiffrin claimed her first World Cup podium in any discipline as she finished third in the Lienz slalom at age 16.
- 50 years ago, in the debut of the Lienz World Cup race on the Hochstein as Lienz, a little-known American by the name of Judy Nagel, now Judy Johnson, swept the Lienz World Cup tech series. Nagel remains the youngest American to win a World Cup (17 years, five months, 13 days) – about three months younger than Shiffrin when she won her first in Åre, Sweden in 2012.
- Mikaela Shiffrin has won an all-time record 43 World Cup slalom races, tied with Lindsey Vonn (43 in downhill) for most wins among women in a single discipline. Only Ingemar Stenmark (46 in giant slalom) has won more in a single discipline.
- On 29 December 2011, Shiffrin claimed her first World Cup podium in any discipline as she finished third in the Lienz slalom at age 16.
- Mikaela has won 64 World Cup races, in outright second place on the all-time women's list. Lindsey Vonn holds the women's record of 82 race wins. On the men's side, only Ingemar Stenmark (86) and Marcel Hirscher (67) have won more World Cup races.
- 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 became the first alpine skier, male or female, to record 14 successive slalom podiums in the World Cup, surpassing Erika Hess who had 13 (1980-1982).
- Mikaela has claimed four World Cup podiums in the Lienz slalom. She won on 28 December 2017, finished second on 29 December 2013 and claimed third place on 29 December 2011, and now—eight years to the day after her first-ever podium—a victory on 29 December 2019.
- Mikaela has now won 12 World Cup events in Austria, surpassing the women's record held by Renate Götschl, Annemarie MoserPröll, Marlies Schild and Lindsey Vonn.
Nina O'Brien also started for the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team, but did not qualify for a second run, while Paula Moltzan returned to World Cup action, but leaned in a bit on the top section of the course and DNFed.
Up next, the women will have a few days before they head to the always highly anticipated Snow Queen Trophy race on Jan. 4 in Zagreb, Croatia, where Mikaela has won the last two years and four of the last five races at the venue. With the coming new year, Mikaela says “I’m excited for the new challenges, in so many ways this season is so different than last season and I’m starting to accept that and look forward to the new challenges.”
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