Shiffrin Second in World Cup Return; Finds Joy in Ski Racing Again
After 300 days away from the World Cup circuit, Mikaela Shiffrin barely missed a beat, stepping back on the podium in second place at the FIS Ski World Cup slalom in Levi, Finland.
The weather was chilly in the Finnish Lapland, with the second run taking place under the lights to make up for the lack of sunlight 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle in December. Conditions were ideal for Mikaela, who finished just .18 seconds behind Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova. Katharina Liensberger of Austria was third. (Fun fact: The last 27 World Cup slaloms have been won by Mikaela or Petra. Frida Hansdotter was the last female to win a World Cup slalom apart from the pair…in 2017!)
Saturday’s slalom in Levi was the much-anticipated return of Mikaela, who had not had a World Cup start since her last win in Bankso, Bulgaria on January 26, 2020. Shortly after, her father died unexpectedly and she took a leave of absence from the World Cup to be with her family. By the time Mikaela decided to race again, COVID-19 was taking hold and ultimately canceled the rest of the FIS season. And while she had looked forward to racing the opening giant slalom in Soelden, she tweaked her back and sat out the weekend.
Mikaela kept expectations low of Saturday's race, warning reporters to not anticipate much of her skiing, but those caveats proved unnecessary, as Mikaela set down two aggressive runs to take her seventh podium in Levi.
As important as a result, Mikaela said she found the joy in ski racing again. “It felt like my first victory,” she said. “It’s a really special day.”
“I think a good thing was that a lot of the feeling today was similar to what I felt in the past,” Mikaela continued. “Maybe that means I didn’t lose it all—my ability to ski fast or to try to be strong and come back and be hungry and competitive. One of the big reasons I wanted to come back and race was to see if this was something I could still do. And we’re here and it was okay. I still enjoyed it. That’s good.”
While she’s looking forward to seeing what else she can do, Mikaela did acknowledge that her mindset is different after her father’s death.
“When I was nervous, I would think what’s the worst that could happen when I don’t win,” she mused. “The media or my friends and family are disappointed? Or they’re happy because they’re cheering for someone else? Those aren’t bad things. I know that now. I’d like to get back to the point where I care enough to be really fired up when I’m second by .18, but I’m pretty happy right now and pretty proud.”
Lila Lapanja, Resi Stiegler and Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team athletes Paula Moltzan and Nina O’Brien all started first run, but finished just out of the top 30 and did not make second run.
The women get another go on the same track in Levi on Sunday with a second slalom race.
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
Sunday, Nov. 22
12:00 a.m. FIS Alpine World Cup Women's Slalom - Same Day Delayed Broadcast, Levi, FIN, Broadcast, NBCSN
4:15 am - FIS Alpine World Cup Women's Slalom first run - LIVE, Levi, FIN, Streaming Peacock
7:00 a.m. - FIS Alpine World Cup Women's Slalom - LIVE, Levi, FIN, Broadcast Olympic Channel
7:15 a.m. - FIS Alpine World Cup Women's Slalom second run - LIVE, Levi, FIN, Streaming Peacock
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