It Was A Historic World Championships for Mikaela Shiffrin and Team USA
The U.S. Ski Team has won 47 World Championship medals. Of those medals, Mikaela Shiffrin now owns almost a third.
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Since the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. Alpine Ski Team has won 47 world championship medals. Of those medals, Mikaela Shiffrin owns almost a third. At the 2023 Alpine World Ski Championships in Courchevel-Méribel, France, she brought her tally up to 14—a record in the modern era (post-World War II) and just one medal shy of the all-time record of 15.
Related: Why ski racers don’t care about World Championship medals
But this time around, Shiffrin shared the medal-winning load with a few teammates, specifically, six skiers who brought home the U.S.’s first team parallel world title.
Here’s a look at highlights from the 2023 FIS World Alpine Championships—a U.S. perspective.
1. Mikaela Shiffrin sets a World Championship medal record and wins her first GS title
Coming into World Championships, the word “historic” had already been used to label Mikaela Shiffrin’s 2022-’23 ski season. In January, she broke Lindsey Vonn’s record of most World Cup wins by a female alpine skier (82), and she sits one shy of Ingemar Stenmark’s all-time record (86).
In Méribel, Shiffrin kept adding milestones to her career. She collected three more medals to her already-prodigious collection. With 14 FIS medals now hanging in her trophy cabinet, she jumped to the top of the list for most World Championship medals won in the modern era — surpassing Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who won 12 medals between 1991 and 2003. And Shiffrin climbed into a tie with four other skiing legends for most World Championship golds won in individual events (seven and counting).
Only Cristl Cranz from Germany has won more (12 golds and 15 total medals). The German dominated women’s alpine skiing back in the 1930s—considered the “before times” when fewer women competed.
As always, Shiffrin did not come to Méribel to expand her medal collection. She only wanted to ski her best. After the 2022 Olympics last winter, she was well aware that anything can happen at a big event—the good, bad, and ugly.
First the bad: she was disqualified in the slalom portion of the combined. But two days later, she looked at the super-G course “in a different way,” visualizing how she wanted to ski it and analyzing video from her sixth-place super-G run in the combined. Her work paid off. She won silver in super-G.
Twelve days later, she ended her sixth World Championship by winning her sixth medal in slalom—a surprise silver after University of Vermont graduate Laurence St-Germain won the first World Championship title for Canadian women in 20 years (and first slalom title since 1960).
But the race that stood out was the giant slalom—a world title that Shiffrin has eyed since she was a child. She has dominated the discipline this year, winning five of six World Cup giant slaloms leading up to Worlds. But to win the world title, she would have to beat three former world champions—one of whom was the home-country favorite—on a course that bedeviled her at World Cup Finals last spring. And she had to overcome her nerves. Shiffrin wanted the win, and it was hard to put that thought out of her mind.
Watch: Mikaela Shiffrin wins her first GS World title
Skiing full-gas, on the very limit, she was in the lead both runs. But a slip late in her second run almost sent her off course.
“No way, are you going out now?” she thought. “Go harder!”
She went so hard that she “saw red,” crossing 0.12 of a second ahead of Italy’s Federica Brignone, who won the combined title on the day last week when Shiffrin disqualified.
When Shiffrin saw the green light indicating she had won, she covered her face and fell to the ground.
“I couldn’t really believe it because I imagined on the second run messing up and losing it,” she confessed. “So I was pushing as hard as I could. In the end when I saw the green, I just felt disbelief and proud and also a bit lucky.”
Impressively, Shiffrin won the GS title plus the slalom silver during an emotional week where her long-time coach Mike Day left suddenly after she told him that she wants to change her staffing at the end of this season.
Read more: Shiffrin unexpectedly parts way with longtime coach
“One thing I really want to say is just thank-you to Mike for seven years of, I can’t even say helping me, he’s been such an integral part of my team and being there to support me through some of the most incredible moments in my career, and some of the most challenging moments in my career and also my life,” Shiffrin said, her voice quavering with emotion, in the press conference after her GS win. “He’s been there to support me through it all. So it’s just a little bit sad how it came down.”
But the World Championships themselves were not a sad occasion for Shiffrin. Only twice have skiers won more than three medals at Worlds. Toni Sailer won four world titles in 1956 (back when World Championships coincided with the Olympic Winter Games every four years). And Shiffrin herself won four medals back in 2021—an indication that most of the records left to break in ski racing are her own.
2. River Radamus narrowly misses a medal in the alpine combined
River Radamus has an unfortunate relationship with fourth place. He finished the 2022 Olympic GS in fourth, and this year at World Champs, he finished fourth in the alpine combined.
“I’m happy with my intensity,” the 25-year-old from Colorado said after the event. “I haven’t skied a lot of slalom, but I knew this might be the last combined we do, so I didn’t want to have any regrets.”
Radamus finished fifth in the super-G portion of the alpine combined, then skied the fifth fastest slalom run, which bumped him up to fourth.
“It stings a little bit, you know, I’ve been fourth a lot now,” he said. “But I can’t fault the intensity.”
3. Team USA wins its first team parallel title
Radamus did not have to lick his wounds for long. A week later, he helped the U.S. win its first world title in the team parallel event, along with Paula Moltzan, Nina O’Brien, and Tommy Ford, with Luke Winters and Katie Hensien in reserve.
“We absolutely didn’t expect it,” said O’Brien. “I felt really good about our team and knew we’re skiing fast, but anything can happen in parallel, so there’s really no expectations ever.”
The gold medal also helped ease the frustration that the team experienced at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, when they finished fourth in the team parallel event to Norway—a disappointing finish during a disappointing Games for the U.S. alpine skiers. Radamus, Ford, and Moltzan were on the team in Beijing (along with Shiffrin). This time, they kept a medal in their grasp.
Watch: Team USA wins its first team parallel title
“It just shows that we have some depth,” commented Ford. “We train together and travel together all the time, and we’re pushing each other. It’s fun to actually work together and build the time, and we did it for five rounds. I’m proud of that. We had a good run last year in the Olympics, and we built on that as well. So it’s cool.”
The only downside: Moltzan broke three metacarpals in her left hand.
“I broke it halfway down on the last run, it was maybe worth a gold medal,” said Moltzan with a wry laugh.
The injury forced her to withdraw from the slalom. She left Méribel to have surgery on her hand with the hope of finishing out the World Cup season.
U.S. skiers had other bright notes during the championships. A year and a week after suffering a compound fracture in her lower left leg in the 2022 Olympic GS, O’Brien skied the second-fastest second run in GS and moved from 21st place to 11th.
“Just being here at the world championships was a big goal for me and something that I really thought about throughout the whole rehab process,” said O’Brien. “The healing and the rehab were the hard part. But then this season, also just riding a roller coaster of my own expectations. I had good days but also many disappointing days where I wasn’t even sure I would make this team or whether I’d be able to be back in the top 30. So to have a result like this means a lot to me.”
Katie Hensien also had a good GS, skiing the sixth fastest second run (jumping to 23rd place).
In men’s GS, Radamus overcame a frustrating first run by skiing the third-fastest second run.
“In between runs, I realized I have nothing to lose, there’s no reason to just play it safe,” he said. “It still wasn’t my best skiing ever, but I felt like the places I wanted to, I pushed as hard as I possibly could. So I’m proud with the effort and psyched that I came out with a little bit of a faster second run and overall psyched with the world champs experience.”
From Méribel, the women will jump back on the World Cup tour with speed races in Crans Montana, Switzerland, next weekend. Shiffrin will skip the speed races and rejoin the Tour in March. She will have two slaloms, two giant slaloms, and two super-Gs (if she chooses to compete in them) to tie—and surpass—Stenmark’s World Cup win record.
From Courchevel, the men jump on a plane and head to California for the first men’s World Cup at Palisades Tahoe since 1969 (the resort hosted women’s races in 2017).
“I’ve been missing racing for a home crowd, so it’s going to be electric,” said Radamus. “Everybody’s going to be coming out, and I can’t wait to go put on a show.”