Mikaela Shiffrin wins slalom in first race in two months
CRANS-MONTANA, SWITZERLAND — Mikaela Shiffrin is definitely back.
Two perfect runs saw the American win a women's World Cup slalom by almost a half-second on Monday in her first race after two months out with injury.
Crossing the line smiling after her second run, Shiffrin turned to look at the timings board then put her head in her hands at the realization she had won.
"I came in blind a little bit," she said. "I knew my training skiing was some of the best I was doing but I just wasn't sure. It was kind of close your eyes and go, see what happens at the end of the run.
"I didn't know what to expect from the rest of the girls. I was just watching on television and wasn't sure of the pace. I could see it but it's different from being there."
It was Shiffrin's first race since tearing a ligament in her right knee in December. The Olympic and world slalom champion started skiing again only two weeks ago.
Shiffrin won two slaloms in Aspen, Colorado, and both by big margins, before the training mishap in Sweden. She has won her last six slaloms stretching back to last season.
This was Shiffrin's 18th win on the circuit, moving her level with Tamara McKinney for the second-most wins by an American woman. She turns 21 next month.
Leading after the first run, Shiffrin finished 0.45 seconds faster than Nastasia Noens of France and 0.50 ahead of Marie-Michele Gagnon of Canada as several of her rivals struggled in difficult conditions.
Three of the top 10 after the first run did not finish: Michelle Gisin, Petra Vlhova and Erin Mielzynski. Lila Lapanja of the United States also skied out.
"That was a tough race, tough for all the girls," Shiffrin said. "Some of the girls had really bad visibility. I had OK visibility, I was struggling to see but at least I could see a bit. I'm relieved with the luck of having better visibility.
"I was at the top, looking at the start and I was thinking, 'Oh it doesn't look too bad.' Then I closed my eyes for about a minute, visualizing the course, and then when I opened them again I was like, 'Hey, where did the slope go?"'
World Cup slalom leader Frida Hansdotter finished sixth, 5.89 behind Shiffrin. The Swede has 545 points, 99 more than second-best Veronika Velez-Zuzulova of Slovakia, who was 10th.
Shiffrin, who has won the past three titles, is 245 points behind Hansdotter. There are only two slalom races left along with a parallel event this month in Stockholm that counts in the slalom standings.
"The slalom globe's out. I'm going to focus on GS a little bit now, try to see how quickly I can get back, see how many points I can get overall," Shiffrin said.
Shiffrin is targeting the super G and super combined in Soldeu at the end of the month, but added, "That depends how training goes."
This story has corrected Shiffrin's points behind in the standings, from 219 to 245.