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The 2018-’19 World Cup season is coming to an end as both the men’s and women’s World Cup circuit make their final stop in Grandvalira Soldeu, Andorra from March 13-17. Throughout the week, Soldeu will host a final race in each discipline—downhill, super-G, giant slalom, and slalom—to give the top 25 racers in each event one last opportunity to collect World Cup points, and a shot at a Crystal Globe—the trophy that goes to the racer with the most points in each discipline.
Heading into the Soldeu World Cup Finals, American Mikaela Shiffrin has already secured the Overall and Slalom World Cup Crystal Globes, and also leads the standings in giant slalom and super-G.
The 23-year-old Shiffrin has had a record-breaking season this year, winning an astonishing 15 World Cup races—a historic first for any racer, male or female, in a single season. She is also the first racer to win a World Cup race in all six events, positioning her as one of the greatest all-around racers in the history of the sport.
But as Shiffrin has indicated each time after breaking a record, the stats don’t really matter to her. “It’s not really important for me, but it’s the symbol of the things that are important to me,” Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “My goal is to always be strong when I’m in the start gate, to be able to win any race I start in…The win numbers aren’t crazy-important, but it’s still special.”
While she already has two globes locked in, Shiffrin is undoubtedly eyeing the GS and super-G titles in Soldeu, two events where the Globes are still very much up for grabs. With only 97 points separating Shiffrin and Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova in GS, and only 32 points between Shiffrin and Tina Weirather of Lichtenstein in super-G, Shiffrin will need to ski more aggressively than she did in her last GS in Spindleruv Mlyn to become the first racer to collect four Globes.
Spindleruv Mlyn GS and Slalom
The last stop on the women’s World Cup circuit before the season finals in Soldeu was in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic, where the women competing in the technical events contested the penultimate GS and slalom races of the season.
Both races came down to the usual podium suspects, with crowd favorite Petra Vlhova of Slovakia expected to give Shiffrin a run for her money in each event, Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg giving chase in GS, and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener looking to make amends for her disappointing World Championships slalom result.
In the end, it was Vlhova who landed the top podium spot in the GS on March 8, besting both Rebensburg who finished in second and Shiffrin who rounded out the podium in third. While Shiffrin was disappointed with both of her GS runs, she was relieved to finish on the podium after her first run—1.33 seconds slower than Vlhova’s leading time—slotted her into fourth place.
After the race she admitted that she had played it too safe in the first run, and it was clear that she would need to ski two very strong runs in the next day’s slalom to secure the win from Vlhova, who seemed to be skiing at the top of her game in front of the Czech and Slovak crowd.
True to form, Shiffrin retaliated in the slalom, skiing two very aggressive and strong runs to beat Holdener by 0.85 seconds, and Vlhova by a staggering 2.03 seconds.
“Yesterday in the second run I was pushing really hard,” Shiffrin said after the slalom about her GS races the previous day. “It was enough to get on the podium, and I was really happy about that. But I felt disappointment from the first [run]. So today I wanted to not protect something, ski with risks and ski to fight and just see what was possible. And today it was really fun to [really] ski both runs.”
Coming up at the World Cup Finals in Soldeu…
The final World Cup races of the 2018-’19 season kick off in Soldeu on March 13. The first women’s event will be the downhill on March 13. Shiffrin will not start in the downhill since she is not in the running for a globe in the discipline and will instead focus on the super-G on Thursday, March 14, followed by the GS on March 16 and slalom on March 17.
The U.S. men’s team will be represented by Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, Calif.), Tommy Ford (Bend, Ore.), Steven Nyman (Sundance, Utah), Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley), Ryan Cochran-Siegle (Starskboro, Vt.) and River Radamus (Edwards, Colo.) who earned his spot in the World Cup Finals thanks to his two World Junior Championship victories this year. Bennet, currently ranked sixth in the world in downhill, will lead the charge for the American men in Wednesday’s downhill event. Ford, ranked eighth in the world in GS, will go up against 2019 Overall World Cup Champion Marcel Hirscher in the GS Final on March 16.