ST MORITZ, Switzerland — Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States racked up her eighth successive World Cup win in the slalom on Saturday while a first victory for Thomas Fanara topped an all-French podium in the giant slalom on the penultimate day of the finals.
Shiffrin again won by a large margin and Veronika Velez-Zuzulova and newly-crowned World Cup winner Frida Hansdotter could only smile wryly as the Olympic champion crossed the line more than two seconds faster after another monstrous run.
Shiffrin is unbeaten in slalom racing since February 2015 but missed five races during a two-month injury layoff and couldn’t capture a fourth successive crystal globe in the discipline.
“I try not to say ‘what if’ too much because maybe in a parallel universe maybe I won a fourth globe but we’re living in this world and Frida won and I think she really deserves it,” Shiffrin said. “Maybe if I didn’t get injured I would have struggled with my speed or something. It happened the way it did and I’m happy.”
Hansdotter of Sweden clinched the World Cup slalom title earlier this month with a race to spare. Velez-Zuzulova was runner-up, with Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener third in the standings.
Shiffrin is the first woman to win more than three races in one discipline in a season but fail to reach the podium of the final standings and the 21-year-old admits it was a bittersweet feeling to be a bystander rather than on top of the podium when the crystal globe was handed out.
“I’m so glad that I was able to ski well today and win another slalom but definitely there’s a sweet spot in my heart for getting the globe,” she said. “So watching (Hansdotter) get it, I have to say I was bummed, but at the same time I’m really, really happy for her because I know the feeling of holding that in your hand.
“You have goals to win a race but then to actually win the globe, it’s this whole other contest. I think she deserves it. I’ve been in her shoes, all you can do is smile.”
Velez-Zuzulova was 2.03 seconds behind Shiffrin, with Hansdotter third, 2.31 off the pace.
It was a tough second run for many of the favourites as Nastastia Noens and Nina Loeseth, who were second and fourth after the first run, failed to finish.
Noens was second, 0.72 behind Shiffrin after the first run but crashed just after the second intermediate check. The race was interrupted as the French skier was helped to the side of the course, where she received treatment before being transported away on a stretcher.
The margin of victory was much smaller in the men’s giant slalom, where a perfect second run saw Fanara edge out teammate Alexis Pinturault by 0.02. Mathieu Faivre was 0.14 off the pace.
Fanara was fourth-fastest after the opening run, with Faivre quickest, 0.2 seconds ahead of Pinturault, who had won four races in the discipline this season.
“Amazing, I have no words,” the 34-year-old Fanara said. “It was difficult to believe until Mathieu crossed the finish, I took 10 seconds to realize, ‘yes, you did it.’ It’s an amazing moment for me and to share it with two other French guys on the podium is just amazing.
“I also want to say think you to the other racers. A lot of other racers congratulated me and I could see in their eyes that this was honest and they were really happy for me and it touched me.”
Marcel Hirscher had also won four giant slalom races this season to successfully defend his World Cup title. The Austrian finished fifth, 0.92 behind Fanara.
Pinturault was second in the giant slalom standings and Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, who will pick up the slalom globe tomorrow, was third.
The 27-year-old Hirscher had also already secured a fifth successive overall title.
Lara Gut has also already secured the women’s overall title in a campaign that was without several of its main contenders after knee injuries took out American Lindsey Vonn in February and two-time defending champion Anna Fenninger of Austria last October. Tina Maze of Slovenia, the 2013 winner, sat out the season.
Daniella Matar, The Associated Press