CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – Mikaela Shiffrin had her winning streak in slalom at world championships ended by Katharina Liensberger on Saturday as the title returned to Austria after 10 years.

Shiffrin had to settle for bronze after earning slalom gold at a record four straight worlds since Marlies Raich – competing under her maiden name Schild – won it in 2011.

This time, Shiffrin finished 1.98 seconds behind Liensberger, who posted the fastest times in both runs. Petra Vlhova, the overall and slalom World Cup leader from Slovakia, was one second behind the Austrian for silver.

After her triumph in Tuesday’s parallel event, Liensberger became a double world champion but has yet to win on the World Cup circuit.

“I really gave it all today,” Liensberger said. “I worked so hard for it, every single day in preparation. It’s amazing that it all comes back. If you really want something, the whole universe, it’s just happening for you.”

Shiffrin earlier won gold in the combined event and took silver in giant slalom after opening the worlds with bronze in super-G. It made her only the fifth female skier to win four medals at one worlds, and first since Swedish standout Anja Pårson achieved the feat 14 years ago.

“It’s incredible,” the American said. “I don’t think there was ever a time where I could have said ‘I win four medals in one world championships.’

“But it’s one thing to sort of dream about getting the medals, but in the moment when it counts, having good enough skiing to do it, especially for the world championships to do it four times, is really special,” Shiffrin said.

Shiffrin’s previous world title came in her record-breaking World Cup 2018-19 season, winning 17 races on the road to her third overall title.

This season is a different one for the American. She took a 10-month break from racing last year after the death of her father, Jeff Shiffrin, which was followed by the coronavirus pandemic and a back injury.

“If this was last year, I would be maybe disappointed but not as grateful for the good moments in the day,” Shiffrin said.

“Maybe ‘normal’ is just going to be changing all the time. I have a different opinion of what normal means now,” she said. “Here, in these last two weeks, every day had something really special, and it’s something to smile about.”

Katharina Liensberger (AUT).

Liensberger certainly had something so smile about as well.

Her biggest triumph came 1½ years after her career went off the track. An up-and-coming prospect in the Austrian team, she made a surprise switch from her ski brand Rossignol to another supplier, which led to a dispute with the Austrian ski federation.

Liensberger joined revived Austria-based ski brand Kästle but failed to find a fitting boot supplier as she wasn’t allowed to use ski boots from a manufacturer outside the federation’s supplier pool.

The dispute even led to Liensberger having to sit out the World Cup season opener in October 2019, but she re-signed with Rossignol the following month.

The move has kick-started her career.

In 11 World Cup slaloms since, Liensberger was never worse than seventh and racked up six podiums, including in all five races this season.

It was fitting that her first win came at the worlds, as her late grandfather, Albert Liensberger, lived in nearby San Lorenzo di Sebato.

For a women’s slalom course, the Druscié had an uncharacteristically steep start and a long pitch with a gradient of up to 60 precent. Also, conditions with grippy snow were considerably different from the icy slope used for the previous events at these worlds.

Only 65 from 107 starters in the opening run reached the finish.

Michelle Gisin, the only skier other than Shiffrin or Vlhova to win a World Cup slalom this season, straddled a gate early in her run on the course set by one her Swiss team’s coaches.

Overall World Cup champion Federica Brignone and Shiffrin’s teammate Paula Moltzan also skied out in the first run, while Americans Nina O’Brien and AJ Hurt didn’t finish their second runs.

The worlds conclude with the men’s slalom on Sunday.

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for more. 

World Championships – Women’s Slalom – Cortina d’Ampezzo – Feb. 20, 2021

5 COMMENTS

  1. Obviously in the first run, with the strong sunshine and above freezing air temp at the start, the course conditions were suboptimal. The course deteriorate quickly in the first run. The skis were getting floaty in the fluid course snow, requiring a special touch. It was probably a bit sticky, too. It was advantageous for Katharina, skiing first. Skiing 2nd, Petra power carved thru it. But, the course seemed to get slower with each successive racer. The fluid snow conditions, sort of surprised Mikaela. While in the second run ditto, warm fluid snow. It was easy to over ski, and, especial for the bigger more powerful skiers, who drift lower, or trenched it. Nina trenched it, and hooked into a pole. Big surprise was Anreja Solkar who killed it with some beautiful carves and started bib 31 and finished 5th. She jumped 12 places in the second run and sat in the leader seat a long time, very happy. Mikaela did solve the snow problem on the second run, and was a bit faster than Petra. But once again Petra just power carved thru it, and Katharina skied fastest. Katharina has a really good J turn that she employed to stay above the sloppy apexes. Condolences to Mikaela for losing her slalom crown, but congrats for medaling in all her events

  2. Congrats to all the medalists! Liensberger deserved the win.

    Mikaela’s run was ok but nothing special. You could tell she wasn’t comfortable on this surface which is strange considering she never really cared about surface conditions before. She has lacked the typical energy/attack we’re used to all season long. In here bread and butter event (slalom) she’s fallen behind several other girls. She’s going to have to work on the mental aspects if she wants to get back on top. Lindsey Vonn might not have had the extreme talent Shiffrin possesses but her mental/physical strength were second to none.

  3. Maybe a few more forerunners would have made the 1st run more even, but Katharina Liensberger was in a class of her own on the day and had all others covered, both runs. Congrats to her.

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