SPINDLERUV MLYN, Czech Republic (AP) — A shake of the head, lips pouting... but then all smiles.
Mikaela Shiffrin was quick to take the positives after realizing she had to wait for at least five more weeks before tying the World Cup record for most career wins with victory No. 86.
The American skier finished runner-up to Germany's Lena Dürr in a slalom Sunday, the last World Cup race before the world championships, and remained one victory short of Ingemar Stenmark’s total on the all-time overall winners list among men and women. The Swede competed in the 1970s and '80s.
“Life has changed me, but I feel my skiing has improved over the last years,” Shiffrin said. “And I’m maybe a better skier than I’ve ever been in my life. And that’s pretty cool."
Laurence St-Germain of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., finished seventh and Amelia Smart of Invermere, B.C., was 20th.
Even though it didn't happen Sunday, Shiffrin has returned to winning races at a similar pace to that of the 2018-19 season. She racked up a record 17 victories that year, and has already picked up 11 wins from 23 starts in the current season, including three in the past six days.
Shiffrin's next chance to break Stenmark's record will be in March when she resumes World Cup racing after the Feb. 6-19 worlds in France. World championship races do not count toward World Cup wins.
“I don’t have any expectations going into it,” Shiffrin said about her next World Cup event, which will be either at the speed races in Kvitfjell, Norway on March 4-5 or tech races in Are, Sweden the following week.
“It’s just like every race of the season, trying to take it all in and enjoy – enjoy my skiing, enjoy when the other athletes are skiing better. Because there is always something to learn from that.”
Shiffrin had broken a tie on the all-time women’s list with former American teammate Lindsey Vonn last Tuesday. Vonn had 82 wins when she retired in 2019.
Shiffrin, however, still set a record Sunday.
Her second place gave her an insurmountable lead in the season-long slalom standings with two races to spare. Her closest challenger, Wendy Holdener, failed to qualify for the second run and didn’t score World Cup points.
It made Shiffrin the first woman to win seven season titles in slalom, surpassing Swiss standout Vreni Schneider, who won it six times in the 1980s and ’90s.
The women’s record for most titles in any discipline is held by Vonn, who won eight crystal globes as the best downhill skier of the season.
Racing at the resort near the Czech-Polish border where she had her World Cup debut as a 15-year-old almost 12 years ago, Shiffrin dominated a slalom on the same course Saturday, posting the fastest times in both runs for her career win 85.
On Sunday, Shiffrin held a commanding first-run lead of 0.67 seconds over Dürr, but posted only the 14th-fastest time in the final run and was edged by 0.06 by the German skier.
“I felt like the first run I skied very well, and I actually skied quite well in the second as well," Shiffrin said. “And six-tenths is actually not so much time. Lena has been strong all season and she deserves to win.”
It was Dürr's second World Cup victory, coming 10 years to the day after she won a city event in Moscow.
“Crazy that today is the day," Dürr said. “It took me a while, I just tried to risk it all. I had a little mistake down in the flat and I just thought: ‘Go all-in.’”
It was the first slalom victory for the German women's team since Maria Höfl-Riesch triumphed in Levi, Finland, in November 2012.
Zrinka Ljutic was 0.49 behind in third for her first career World Cup podium. The Croatian skier won the junior world title in slalom this month.
Shiffrin's long-term main rival in slalom, Olympic champion Petra Vlhová of Slovakia, was fifth after the opening run but had a series of uncharacteristic mistakes in the second as she dropped to 13th, more than two seconds behind Dürr and Shiffrin.
It ended a 17-race series in slalom in which Vlhová had not finished worse than fourth.
Sunday's slalom was the last women's World Cup race before the worlds, which open with the women’s combined event in Méribel on Monday Feb. 6.
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