LIENZ, Austria — Mikaela Shiffrin always seems to raise the bar when it comes to the final World Cup race of the year.
The American star finished 2023 with an eye-catching performance even by his standards, winning a slalom race on Friday by a huge margin of 2.34 seconds for his 93rd career victory.
It was Shiffrin’s seventh victory in his last eight starts in the traditional year-end slalom, which alternates between the Austrian resorts of Lienz and Semmering.
“The last two years, we’ve really been building from the start of the season until now, and somehow it clicked, I guess,” said Shiffrin, who missed this race in 2015 due to a knee injury, and in 2021 after testing positive for the corona virus.
However, there is no secret about its peak between Christmas and New Year.
“In skiing, it’s always like: be hard at work, do the work,” said the five-time World Cup champion American.
Shiffrin posted by far the fastest times in both descents of the Schlossberg course to finish ahead of second place German Lena Duerr. Swiss skier Michelle Gisin was 0.11 further back in third place.
“Today was a very special day for me. I felt perfect on the skis, so I’m super happy,” said Shiffrin, who also won Thursday’s giant slalom on the same hill. “It’s a very nice feeling right now.”
Friday’s result marks the seventh largest margin of victory ever recorded in a women’s World Cup slalom. Shiffrin set four of these other records, including the best of 3.07 seconds during a race in Aspen, Colorado, in November 2015.
Her American teammate Paula Moltzan, second after the first stage, rode a gate and did not complete her final run.
Shiffrin’s main slalom rival, Olympic champion Petra Vlhova, finished fifth, 3.24 seconds behind. The Slovakian beat Shiffrin in a night slalom in France last week.
Seeking her 56th career victory in 107 slalom starts, Shiffrin dominated the first run ahead of Moltzan and positioned herself for a second victory in two days.
Shiffrin produced a flawless first run on the Schlossberg course to beat Moltzan by a huge margin of 1.14 seconds.
Shiffrin also built a big lead in Thursday’s GS, when she used a rather conservative second run to secure her record 92nd career victory. But this time, the afternoon was not chosen, despite this week’s busy schedule.
“It was definitely an effort today,” Shiffrin said after the first round. “I took the last four days of training and then I went straight to the race yesterday, and so I knew that today was going to be six days in a row, that it was going to be maybe a little tiring. But I wanted to feel comfortable with skiing.”
Moltzan posted the fastest time in the first section, even beating Shiffrin by 0.07, but was slowed halfway through her run when she leaned back and her ski tips rose. in the air before quickly regaining its rhythm.
Moltzan first extended his lead over Duerr during the final run before losing time in the following splits. She rode a gate near the end of her run.
“The way she skied the first run was just wonderful. And it’s really bittersweet today,” Shiffrin said.
Shiffrin and Moltzan finished 1-2 a year ago to the day in a slalom at another Austrian resort – Semmering. It was the first such result for the Americans in more than 51 years.
The Women’s World Cup continues with a GS and slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia on January 6-7.
Gn En sports