Freud: Shiffrin hits home stretch of season with even more in crosshairs |

Freud: Shiffrin hits home stretch of season with even more in crosshairs

Chris Freud
Vail Daily

United States' Mikaela Shiffrin competes during the women's slalom, at the alpine ski World Championships in Are, Sweden, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

VAIL — So, the first time Mikaela Shiffrin competed at Spindleruv Mlyn in the Czech Republic it was her World Cup debut in a giant slalom on March 11, 2011.

Shiffrin was 15, finished 43rd and was 4.64 seconds off first-run leader and eventual winner, Viktoria Rebensburg. Italy’s Denise Karbon finished second and Lindsey Vonn was third.

In the slalom on March 12, 2011, she was 32nd, just 5-hundredths of a second out of 30th. The top American that day was Sarah Schleper in 11th and Marlies Schild, whose slalom records Shiffrin has already surpassed, won.

On March 13, 2011, Shiffrin didn’t ski, but she did turn 16. We bring this up because we’re startled that Shiffrin was ever 4.64 seconds behind anyone, even at the age of 15. Shiffrin is returning this weekend to Spindleruv Mlyn for GS and slalom on Friday and Saturday and we have no idea how to pronounce Spindleruv Mlyn.

The good news is that Shiffrin tried to teach us via Facebook on Tuesday. If you’re brave enough, she says it phonetically, “Shhpindleroov Mleeeen.”

How about we just call it the World Cup tech events in the Czech Republic?

On a more serious note, the white circus hasn’t been to — ahem — Spindleruv Mlyn since that 2011 stop, so Shiffrin has never even made a flip there in her entire career, much less ever won there.

She could be in trouble, people. Or not.

The comparison

What is staggering is that two years after her first two starts in Spindleruv Mlyn, she was already on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” having won her first slalom globe.

In her fourth start, a slalom in Aspen during Thanksgiving 2011, she earned her first World Cup points by taking eighth. By her eighth start, she earned her first podium in a Lienz, Austria, slalom. In a wee bit of adversity — at least on a Shiffrin scale — it took her all of 24 starts to win on the World Cup — an Are, Sweden, slalom on Dec. 20, 2012.

By the end of that 2012-13 season, she wins her first World Cup slalom title as well as her first FIS Alpine World Ski Championships gold medal. In fewer than seven years, she’s won 57 times on the World Cup, has five Worlds golds and two more from the Olympics.

I abhor the whole Shiffrin-Vonn comparison thing. I only bring it up because what we saw with Vonn was, in theory, a once-in-a-generation phenomenon. While different in skiing background, general personality and approach to competition, what they do share is a level of dominance. When Vonn was at the height of her powers, everyone else was racing for second.

And that seems to be the case now with Shiffrin, which brings us to this weekend and Spindleruv Mlyn. (I’ve watched Shiffrin’s video several times and still can’t pronounce it.)

Another globe or two?

Despite clinching her third World Cup crown last weekend, there is still business on the table. With one win in her last four likely starts, Shiffrin breaks Vreni Schneider’s record for wins (14) in a World Cup season. It’s hard not to like Shiffrin’s chances of winning one race among the remaining two giant slaloms and two slaloms left on the schedule.

What really excites me is the possibility of a GS season title. This really is as close as Shiffrin has come to playing Captain Ahab to Moby Dick in her career.

Since 2014, she’s been seventh, third, 21st (she had an ACL injury), second and third and is sitting in the pole position this winter.

She leads France’s Tessa Worley by 81 points and Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova by 137. This really could happen for Shiffrin and it would be a stupendous accomplishment.

Now, if we really want to get silly, with last weekend’s snowouts in Russia, wanna take a guess of who’s leading in super-G? Yes, despite racing in only three super-Gs this season, Shiffrin leads with 300 points. She’s made no announcement about super-G at next week’s World Cup finals in Andorra. If I were guessing, it’s a no, given that Shiffrin has been hesitant to overload her schedule, and has been proven right by her success in the events she’s entered.

In the meantime, welcome back to Spindleruv Mlyn, Mikaela.