Will Shiffrin Be Crowned Snow Queen Once Again?
The White Circus has moved from Oslo, Norway, to Zagreb/Sljeme, Croatia, where FIS Ski World Cup athletes will compete under the lights for the “Snow Queen Trophy.” I don’t know what it is about Zagreb, it’s just kind of...special. There’s just something about it.
It could be the fact that it’s an event in a city, but it’s not a “city event.” That’s unique. One of the best Christmas markets in Europe still lines the streets and the smells of sausages and mulled wine fill our nostrils. It could be that the all of the teams - both men and women - stay in the same hotel and the race organizers work together with the city to shut down the main road and the entire World Cup circuit caravans up to the hill in a police-escorted convoy. It could be that the second run is under the lights. Or that the winner sits in a throne and is crowned “Snow Queen.” You get the drift - like a magical unicorn, it’s one-of-a-kind. To put it most simply, this city sparkles and Mikaela Shiffrin (Avon, Colo.) has sparkled three times here, crowned queen in 2013, 2015 and 2018.
Shiffrin kicked off the new year in Oslo with a second place finish, propelling her to 1,114 points in her quest for her third consecutive overall title. That’s 446 more points than Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, in second. To give that lead more context, and as Barry Svrluga from the Washington Post wrote in a recent article entitled, “The world’s most dominant athlete at the moment is 23 years old, and getting better”:
Here, then, are Mikaela Shiffrin’s eight most recent results on the World Cup alpine ski circuit: first, first, first, first, first, fifth, first, second. The gap between Shiffrin and the skier in second place in the World Cup’s overall standings, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, covers the gap between Vlhova and Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, who is in — get this — 14th.
It seems that every weekend there is a new record to break, and Shiffrin is showing her dominance week in and week out. In Semmering, Shiffrin won her 36th World Cup slalom race, breaking the ladies' record of 35 set by her childhood idol Marlies Schild. That gave her 15 wins in the calendar year — the most for any athlete ever — male or female. Tomorrow, she could win her seventh successive World Cup slalom race. As Shiffrin has said, she’s not motivated by the numbers, but let’s talk about them anyway.
Here’s the rundown of what’s on tap for records tomorrow (courtesy of FIS and Gracenote Sports):
- Among men and women, only Ingemar Stenmark (40) has won more World Cup slalom events than Shiffrin (36).
- Shiffrin has won 51 World Cup races, seventh most all-time. Vreni Schneider (55) and Hermann Maier (54) are in fifth and sixth place respectively.
- Shiffrin could equal her personal record winning run of seven successive World Cup slalom wins, set in 2016. The only women on more successive wins are Vreni Schneider (8, 1988-1989) and Janica Kostelic (8, 2000- 2001).
- Shiffrin could become the fourth woman to win a World Cup slalom race in eight different calendar years, after Marlies Schild (10), Vreni Schneider (10) and Pernilla Wiberg (8).
- Shiffrin has won 11 of the last 12 slalom races on the World Cup, with the only exception the race in Lenzerheide on 28 January 2018 where she failed to finish her second run (winner: Petra Vlhová).
- In her last 33 appearances in a World Cup slalom race, Shiffrin has recorded 27 first places, two second-place results, two third places, and two DNFs.
- Shiffrin has claimed three World Cup victories in the slalom in Zagreb, in 2013, 2015 and 2018. She has only claimed more World Cup slalom victories in Åre (4).
- Only Schild (4) has won more among women in the Croatian ski resort than Shiffrin (3).
Taking all of this into consideration, Shiffrin is the clear favorite for tomorrow, but Slovakia’s Vlhova, Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter, and the Swiss Wendy Holder are all skiing fast and gunning for Shiffrin. “Of course I like the track here [in Zagreb], I’ve had some great races here, but I’ve also had some difficult races here,” Shiffrin said prior to bib draw at the “Ice Park” in King Tomislav Square Friday night, where athletes ice skated to their bibs. For Saturday, it’s just full focus and full aggression and we’ll see how it goes. It’s easy to lose momentum when you have a couple of days off [over the holiday]; right now it’s important to be really focused and maintain the energy so I can fight hard. And I think it’s going to be a fight tomorrow.”
After scoring in two consecutive World Cups, with a 17th in Killington, Vermont and her first top 15 (15th) in Courchevel, France, Paula Moltzan (Prior Lake, Minn.) — who also skis for the University of Vermont — will look to lay down some fast skiing once again here in Zagreb. Moltzan will also be starting in Flachau, Austria on Tuesday, where she scored her first World Cup points in 2016. The track in Zagreb is hard and icy, but Moltzan skied on ice in the midwest and crushes it in the east coast at university races, so she thrives in these conditions and is looking forward to tomorrow’s race.
On the men’s side, Mark Engel (Salt Lake City, Utah) will be holding down the fort for the Americans, while River Radamus (Edwards, Colo.) and Luke Winters (Gresham, Ore.) compete in the NorAm series in Canada.
Catch all of the action on NBC Sports Gold and the Olympic Channel, so make sure to tune in. See who to watch and where to catch all the action below.
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST.
Preliminary schedule, subject to change
*Same-day delayed broadcast
Saturday, Jan. 5
7:00 a.m. - Women’s slalom run 1 - Zagreb, CRO - OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
10:00 a.m. - Women’s slalom run 2 - Zagreb, CRO - Olympic Channel-TV, OlympicChannel.com& NBC Sports Gold
Sunday, Jan. 6
6:15 a.m. - Men’s slalom run 1 - Zagreb, CRO - OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
9:30 a.m. - Men’s slalom run 2 - Zagreb, CRO - Olympic Channel-TV, OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
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