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Hot on the heels of her first ever World Cup Super G win in Lake Louise on Dec. 2, 23-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin again posted the fastest time down the Super G course in St. Moritz, Switzerland on Saturday, Dec. 8, clinching back-to-back victories in an event that, until recently, was not her strong suit.
A technical skier at heart who is known for consistently winning World Cup slalom events, Shiffrin seems to be learning quickly how to adapt her skiing to the speed events of Super G and downhill. In Lake Louise, Shiffrin won her first Super G by staying low in an aerodynamic position, letting her skis run, and taking the most direct line down the course.
She did the same in Saturday’s race in St. Moritz, and it was enough to take the lead from Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami, a frontrunner in World Cup Super G who has won 12 World Cup races in the event. Shiffrin also bested the winner of last year’s Super G in St. Moritz, Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, who landed in third, 0.42 seconds off Shiffrin’s winning time. Considering Shiffrin finished 20th in last year’s St. Moritz Super G, you could say she’s improving, quickly.
Then on Sunday, Shiffrin was expected to easily qualify for the first parallel slalom event—only the second individual parallel slalom event in the history of World Cup skiing. Shiffrin won the first ever World Cup parallel slalom held last season in Courchevel, France. And as expected, Shiffrin finished first in Sunday morning’s qualifying slalom race, 0.48 seconds ahead of Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter, who ranked third overall in World Cup slalom last season.
In the afternoon, she easily moved through the opening rounds of the head-to-head parallel slalom to secure her spot in the finals against Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova—a rematch of last season’s Courchevel parallel slalom. This year’s victory against Vlhova, however, did not come so easily for Shiffrin. The two were neck-and-neck right out of the start gate, with Shiffrin gaining a slight lead over Vlhova only to almost lose it midway down the course, when she narrowly avoided hooking a gate with her arm and was thrown off balance. Shiffrin was able to make a quick recovery, but she had some serious ground to cover to catch up to Vlhova, who was now a gate ahead of Shiffrin. By the second-to-last gate, Shiffrin managed to close the gap to Vlhova, and only by skating two extra steps after the final gate into the finish line did Shiffrin manage to pull ahead of Vlhova by 0.11 seconds.
“I could see her next to me, just getting faster and faster,” Shiffrin said after the race. “[That’s why] this is such a cool event. It’s such a big fight, and it’s not over until you’re through the finish. Everything is possible, but you have to be going and pushing so, so hard. And I think that’s what makes it exciting.”
Vlhova, who has been hot on Shiffrin’s heels in the World Cup slalom events, finishing second behind Shiffrin in the season-opening slalom in Levi, Finland, would again have to settle for second place. Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, who ranked second overall in World Cup slalom last season, finished third in the parallel slalom.
With these two additional World Cup victories under her belt, Shiffrin has now won five out of the nine World Cup events this season, bringing her total World Cup win tally to 48. She also added significantly to her already huge lead in overall World Cup points for the season.
Shiffrin’s teammate Laurenne Ross also added World Cup points to her cache after snagging a top 30 finish in Saturday’s Super G event. The only other American to race in the Super G was Alice Merryweather, who finished 39th. No other American’s qualified for Sunday’s parallel slalom event.
From St. Moritz the ladies’ World Cup circuit moves on to Val Gardena/Gröden for the downhill and Super G, scheduled for Dec. 18 to 19. Shiffrin will skip these next speed events in favor of focusing on the upcoming technical races in Courchevel, France on Dec. 21-22.