USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin may well have celebrated one of her most thrilling victories on Saturday at Are 2019, winning the slalom race over a week after her triumph in Super-G. After an impressive second run, the 23-year old beat by half a second Sweden’s Anna Swenn-Larsson while Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova got her third medal at Are finishing in 3rd place. She will leave the country with a complete set in all colors after grabbing silver in combined and gold in giant slalom.
Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, in the lead after the morning leg, made a major mistake in the upper part of her second run and ended at a very bitter 17th place, more than five second behind the happy winner of the day.
Austria’s Katharina Liensberger was 4th just ahead of Swedish Olympia champion Frida Hansdotter who made too many mistakes in the afternoon to have a chance to reach the podium. Gabriela Capova from the Czech Team came in 21st – another promising result for her which helps her to improve her position within the international start-list in slalom.
Mikaela pushed hard
“Only” 3rd in the opening run behind Holdener and Swenn-Larsson, Shiffrin took great risks in the afternoon to have a chance to remain a top contender for another gold medal at Are 2019 a dominating the Super-G race last week. Pushing herself to her limits from top to bottom despite feeling sick before the race, the champion from Vail Valley set a new best time that remained out of reach for her main rivals, including Petra Vlhova, winner Thursday of the giant slalom race.
As Marcel Hirscher, Mikaela has become one of the most successful collectors of medals at Olympics and World Championships in the past six years. At Are, she captured her fourth consecutive slalom gold at FIS Worlds, a unique feat in modern ski racing history. It’s also her seventh title in total with her two Olympic gold medals in slalom and giant slalom in 2014 and 2018.
She showed much emotion after the race while talking to reporters. “It has been a really tough day, it was a push race all along. I had a hard time to breathe and was coughing all the time,” she said with broken voice. “After my first slow run I had no other choice than pushing myself as hard as possible in the second run. I have to thank my team so much for supporting me so well today. They helped me a lot to move at my best possible level during those final sixty seconds this afternoon,” Mikaela added. “It may well have been one of my best ever second runs today by those difficult course conditions.”
“For once I didn’t feel nervous at the start, probably because I was sort of distracted by my sickness. I was totally exhausted after my race and needed to lay down on the snow for a while. But I couldn’t stay there too long as Anna was coming down.”
“It was so exciting to hear the crowd encouraging Anna afterwards. She had a great run too. I was so happy for her, she is a great skier and a kind person. She was so happy after her race. She had to face some tough times this season so it was nice to see her on the podium next to me. It was a special day for all of us.”
“I’ll keep great memories from my time here this winter. We had this apartment near the lake and it was very relaxing for me. I slept pretty well during my stay and greatly enjoyed having breakfast while the sun was rising. This is a really nice place to be right now and I was very happy to be here. It could not be better, it was very special. I’ll remember that.”
It’s not the first time that Mikaela showed great determination in a major event. Back in 2011, she also had to fight hard to clinch bronze in slalom at the junior World Championships who took place in Switzerland. She also suffered from flu during those days and had to skip the previous giant slalom race.
First medal for Sweden
Anna Swenn-Larsson created huge joy to the numerous spectators attending that last women competitions of those 45th FIS World Championships as she managed to capture the first medal for her team in Are. It’s not really a surprise considering her strong races last months on the World Cup tour including her 2nd place two weeks ago at Maribor. It’s also the first medal for the 27-year-old who took part at her fourth FIS World Championships. Five years ago, she reached her maiden podium on the World Cup circuit also at Are.
“This is more than a dream coming thru for me, I am living nearby that arena and I never thought when I was a kid that one day I would get a medal here, this is wonderful,” she said afterwards. “It has been such an exciting race for me, I felt very confident and didn’t feel any extra-pressure on me. I was so happy to be racing in front of my friends and home crowd. I’ll for sure never forget that day.”
Petra Vlhova also benefited from the problems of Holdener to finally reach the podium despite two average runs – and grab her third medal at Are after clocking the 5th time in the opening run. Even though she certainly was aiming for more in that slalom, the Slovakian was satisfied with her result which reinforces her position as top contender of Mikaela Shiffrin on the circuit. This season, she was five times 2nd in slalom before winning at Flachau.
“I was lucky today, I feel sorry for Wendy but that’s sport,” she told the press afterwards. “It was one of my most difficult slalom races ever today. I am happy it’s over and proud of what I achieved here. I didn’t ski well today, I could not find my rhythm but I kept attacking as much as possible. I was surprised to see that I was leading after my second run as I had the feeling to ski so badly. I could not believe it. Mikaela was again perfect, she is impressive and I have a lot to learn from her:”
“I am of course pleased with this third medal here. These World Championships have been excellent for me but I feel tired now. I had a hard time to sleep after my GS win so I skip training yesterday. It was difficult to find motivation and be aggressive again before that slalom. I am looking forward to return home after the City Event at Stockholm in a few days.”
The Are 2019 FIS Alpine World Championships are now over for the women. The World Cup tour resumes soon with a parallel slalom at Stockholm on Tuesday and a couple of races next weekend at Crans-Montana, Switzerland. The World Cup Finals are scheduled in a month in Andorra where a total of nine competitions are planned from March 12th to March 17th.
On Sunday the men will also compete a last time on that slalom slope with Marcel Hirscher, Henrik Kristoffersen and Alexis Pinturault seeking for more medals after her excellent giant slalom performances on Friday.
Written by: Patrick Lang