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“Holy sh*t!” American Paula Moltzan gushed that expletive as she hugged teammate Mikaela Shiffrin in the finish corral of the Semmering World Cup slalom. And just about everyone watching the Semmering slalom under the lights probably uttered the same words.
The expression pretty much summed up Shiffrin and Moltzan’s 1-2 finish—the first time two American women have shared a World Cup slalom podium since Marilyn and Barbara Ann Cochran went 1-2 in December 1971.
“I’m really happy and my family’s here, my husband, and my really good friends are here, so I couldn’t imagine something better,” said Moltzan. “And doing it right next to Mikaela, she continues to put us all in awe.”
“We’ve talked about it for a couple years now,” added Moltzan, referring to finishing on the slalom podium with Shiffrin. “And to finally actually put it together for both of us … .”
It was Shiffrin’s 80th World Cup win and 50th slalom victory—and third win of the week after sweeping the Semmering giant slalom races in the past two days. It was also her fourth consecutive World Cup win across three disciplines (super-G, giant slalom, and slalom) this season.
While Shiffrin has always struggled to find the words to describe how the records feel, Moltzan easily summed it up: “I’m happy that she hit number 80. It will be 100 before we know it.”
Watch: Moltzan and Shiffrin take 1-2 in Semmering World Cup Slalom
Shiffrin was happier for her teammate than for her own result and records. This is the first time Moltzan has stood on a World Cup slalom podium; she finished second in a parallel event in November 2020.
“Paula had a ripping run,” said Shiffrin, still out of breath from her second run. “I saw it from the start. I thought, ‘she might win this race.’”
After a pause to soak in the emotion, Shiffrin added that “it is so special to share a podium with her.”
Moltzan put down a blazing fast first run too, nailing the bottom of the course and sitting in third behind Shiffrin, who posted the fastest first run time. While most skiers were edging hard on the icy piste, Shiffrin defied physics, tapping lightly from edge to edge and taking a big 0.72 second-lead over Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson.
“What was really cool about tonight was there was a moment between the runs where I had this crazy feeling that this is going to be my first podium with Paula, and it’s just going to happen tonight, and it’s going to make my 80th and 50th so much more special because the entire team is celebrating success on so many different levels,” said Shiffrin.
In the second run, Swenn Larsson was bounced around by the rutted course and fell to sixth, tied with Croatian teen Zrinka Ljutic. Moltzan still sat in the lead as all eyes turned up the hill to Shiffrin.
After an uncharacteristically wild ride down Semmering’s Panorama course, Shiffrin crossed the finish line 0.29 seconds ahead of Moltzan. She threw down her poles and immediately skied over to Moltzan for a hug.
“Coming into the finish and seeing Paula and being like, oh my god, I actually won, which is insane, and basically it felt like she did too,” said Shiffrin. “It was just … it’s really cool.”
Germany’s Lena Duerr, fourth after the first run, moved up to third, scoring her first slalom podium of the season.
Moltzan’s first World Cup slalom podium is a feat by any measure, but especially considering her career path. Moltzan made the U.S. Ski Team for the second time in 2019 after a break where she attended the University of Vermont. She won the 2017 NCAA slalom title but figured she would finish out her college career, then move on to med school.
That summer, rather than the usual on-snow training that she had pursued while chasing her ski-racing dreams, she worked as a nanny and river raft guide in western Massachusetts. The next fall, while training for the collegiate season in Colorado, she earned a World Cup start. She did so well in that race (the Killington World Cup) that she was invited to Europe to compete in a few more. Over the past four years, she has steadily climbed up the World Cup slalom rankings.
This fall, Moltzan’s teammates talked about how well she was training, often beating all of them, including Shiffrin.
“I’ve been training a lot with Mikaela, and every day trying to catch her makes it a little bit easier to do it in a race,” Moltzan said.
Between runs, Moltzan was nervous but took a couple of deep breaths and reminded herself that “I knew my skiing could do it.”
Standing on the podium, both Americans reflected back over their long ski-racing careers.
“We couldn’t stop giggling because it was like, are you kidding me? Here we are,” said Shiffrin. “Flashback to how many years ago at the Whistler Cup and Paula and I were riding up the chairlift together. And now we’re here on a World Cup podium together. I’m pretty speechless about it.”
(The Whistler Cup is a renowned international junior race, which Shiffrin dominated in the late 2000s.)
Another highlight of the Semmering night slalom: American Katie Hensien qualified for a second run. Then the Denver University graduate and 2022 NCAA slalom champion skied the fifth-fastest second run and jumped to 21st—her best World Cup finish to date.
With 875 points, Shiffrin now holds a big lead in the overall World Cup standings—369 points ahead of Petra Vlhova who’s currently holding second place and 405 points ahead of downhill champion Sofia Goggia (currently in third). Shiffrin also holds the World Cup slalom lead with 425 points, 55 points ahead of Wendy Holdener (370).
The U.S. women hope to carry their momentum to Zagreb, Croatia, for the next stop on the women’s World Cup tour (two slaloms on January 4-5, 2023).
“These last three days as a team, we did a really amazing job [of staying calm and focused] and it’s pretty spectacular to be part of that, especially at this point in my career,” said Shiffrin.
After everything that’s happened in life, personally and athletically, it’s just amazing to still be part of days like this.”
2022 Women’s Semmering World Cup Slalom – Top 10 Finishers
|Mikaela Shiffrin (USA)||1:43.26|
|Paula Moltzan (USA)||+0.29|
|Lena Duerr (GER)||+0.34|
|Petra Vlhova (SVK)||+0.76|
|Wendy Holdener (SUI)||+0.90|
|Zrinka Ljutic (CRO)||+1.01|
|Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE)||+1.01|
|Ana Bucik (SLO)||+1.55|
|Hanna Aronsson Eleman (SWE)||+1.71|
|Martina Dubovska (CZE)||+2.07|