Shiffrin strikes gold in Italy

Mikaela Shiffrin struck gold on Monday, Feb. 15, in the 2021 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, winning the super-G-slalom alpine combined event by an impressive margin. It is her second medal of the 2021 World Championships in Italy, her sixth career world title, and her ninth career World Championship medal.

The super-G portion of the combined led the day in sunny Cortina d’Ampezzo with Shiffrin finishing in third place, just .06 seconds behind leader Federica Brignone of Italy. Shiffrin looked confident and fast in the event she had just collected a bronze medal in on Saturday, but slalom was where she knew she could shine.

The second run introduced a slalom course set into a sheet of ice after the race crew had injected and temperatures had dropped overnight, causing racer after racer to crash or ski out throughout the afternoon. While there was a total of 14 DNFs, Shiffrin–who had spent many of her formative years racing on Vermont’s icy surfaces–made the conditions look easy, building her lead by half a second or more at each split. She came down an impressive 2.35 seconds ahead after her slalom run, and only Petra Vlhova of Slovakia was able to get near her, finishing second and .86 seconds behind her. Michelle Gisin of Switzerland took bronze.

“It was pretty fun,” Shiffrin said. “It was quite nice to ski today again. Beautiful weather and really nice in the super-G and again amazing in the slalom. It was tough conditions–like a real slalom–but I felt good and like I was pushing the whole time. It was nice when you feel like you’re skiing well and it works. Cool day”

Shiffrin had won slalom, giant slalom, and super-G medals at World Championships in the past, but this was her first alpine combined medal, having sat out the event in the past due to demanding World Champs schedules. Her gold also accrued her a slew of records, including collecting her sixth World Championship gold, passing Ted Ligety, and her ninth total World Championship medal, passing Lindsey Vonn.

“For sure the records are really nice,”Shiffrin said. “It means something, but I don’t really know what to say about it. Today I was focusing on today. First: good super-G run; second: good slalom run. I wasn’t thinking about the record. I know that there’s something about the gold medals and something about total medals, but the first thing I have to do is make good turns on my slalom skis.”

Shiffrin also joins a small elite club of World Championships combined medalists. Tamara McKinney took home gold in 1989–32 years ago–while Julia Mancuso snagged silver in 2007.

In her first World Championships of her career, Bella Wright took home an impressive 14th place. “So much fun,” she exclaimed. “I love it here. I’m sad to be leaving after today, but some great memories here.”

She went on to describe what it’s like to be an athlete with Shiffrin on her team. “It’s amazing to be with her and to learn from her and today to be able to watch her on TV and see her ski some amazing super-G after like five days of super-G this year was so exciting and motivating,” said Wright. “She’s the greatest of all time in slalom, so that was perfect to watch.”

AJ Hurt also raced the slalom portion of the event after finishing 24th in the super-G, but struggled with the tough conditions and skied out. Breezy Johnson did not finish the super-G and is OK.