On Wednesday in Courchevel, France, U.S. alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin won her first downhill in nearly two years and moved closer to securing her fourth overall World Cup title. (Video of Shiffrin’s run is embedded above.)
“I don’t really feel like I’m supposed to be winning downhills. Actually, I feel like I’m supposed to not be winning downhills,” the 27-year-old Shiffrin said in the finish area. “I’m not a downhill skier right now.”
Shiffrin crossed the line in 1:27.00, with Austria’s Christine Scheyer and Switzerland’s Joana Haehlen tying for second (0.10 seconds back).
Shiffrin said her goal was to finish Wednesday’s downhill with a top-five or top-10 finish, just to get “some points.” She instead skied away with a win worth 100 points, a huge boost in her campaign to win the 2021-22 World Cup title, considered the biggest prize in alpine skiing. Shiffrin currently leads the World Cup standings with 1345 points. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova – a tech specialist who finished 16th in Wednesday’s downhill – is in second with 1189 points. No other woman is in contention for the overall title at this point.
Since the Winter Olympics in Beijing, where Shiffrin DNF’d in three races, the Colorado resident has finished on the World Cup podium three times in five starts.
There are three races still to be contested at this week’s World Cup Finals in Courchevel/Meribel, France: super-G, giant slalom, and slalom. The winner of each race will earn 100 points, with skiers in the top-15 receiving points on a descending scale (80 for second, 60 for third, 50th for fourth, and so on).
With a 156-point lead after the downhill, Shiffrin has a chance to mathematically clinch the overall title as soon as Thursday’s super-G.
HOW TO WATCH ALPINE SKIING’S WORLD CUP FINALS: Broadcast and streaming schedule, details
Also on Wednesday, Italy’s Sofia Goggia secured the 2022 World Cup downhill title. Goggia, the 2018 Olympic gold medalist, had a stellar start to the 2021-22 season, recording back-to-back-to-back downhill wins. But a rough crash just weeks ahead of the Beijing Olympics resulted in a left knee sprain, partially torn ligament, and “minor” fibula fracture. The 29-year-old from Bergamo still managed to claim Olympic silver in Beijing. She finished 12th on Wednesday, but it was enough to win her third career World Cup downhill title after the only other woman in contention – Switzerland’s Corinne Suter – placed 19th.
Also notable? The Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecka, a dual threat in both snowboarding and alpine skiing, finished the 2021-22 World Cup season ranked third in the downhill standings. While Ledecka is the best parallel snowboarder in the world – as evidenced by her back-to-back Olympic gold medals – she skipped most of the World Cup season in her “other” sport in order to get in more ski races.
GENDER EQUITY IN SKIING: In alpine skiing, women compete, but that’s about it
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC