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Mikaela Shiffrin ends World Cup with another win, two more records and a revelation

Michaela Shiffrin

Michaela Shiffrin ended a season set by records with two more.

Shiffrin won the World Cup final giant slalom on the last day of the campaign, breaking her tie for most women’s giant slalom wins and most podiums in all women’s World Cup competitions.

Shiffrin earned her record-extending 88th career World Cup victory, leading by six-hundredths Thea Louise Stjernesund of Norway combines times of two runs in Andorra on Sunday.

ALPINE SKI WORLD CUP: full results

She won her 21st career giant slalom, breaking her all-time tie for all-time at the Women’s World Cup with Vreni Schneidera Swiss star from the eighties and nineties.

She achieved her 138th career World Cup podium in all events, breaking her all-time tie for the highest number at the Women’s World Cup with Lindsey Vonn. Shiffrin earned her 138th podium in her 249th start, meaning she has finished in the top three in 55 percent of her World Cup races since her debut at age 15 in 2011.

Earlier this season, Shiffrin passed Vonn and Ingemar Stenmark, a 1970s and 1980s Swede, for the most Alpine World Cup wins. She won 14 times from November to March, her second best season after her record 17-win campaign from 2018/19.

In the intervening years, Shiffrin endured the toughest times of her life, being displaced as the world’s top slalom skier and questioning her skiing like never before.

On Saturday afternoon, Shiffrin was asked what made the difference this fall and winter. There were several factors. She described an important one.

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“I had a lot of problems with my memory,” she said at a press conference. “Not so much this season, but last season and the season before that. I couldn’t remember courses. And as I kind of went through this, I couldn’t hold the mental energy for the second runs.

Pre-race track inspection and the ability to retain that knowledge for a minute-long run over an hour later is integral to success in ski racing. Shiffrin is so meticulous and methodical in her training, historically more important than racing in her junior days, that inspection seems to fit into her preparation for the whole world.

She didn’t understand how she lost that ability until she started working with a new sports psychologist last summer.

“That was kind of like less focus on sports psychology and more focus on psychology, psychology and a little bit more grief counseling,” she said. “Explaining what was actually going on in my brain, such as chemical changes in the brain due to trauma. Not just grief, but actually the traumatic experience itself of knowing what happened to my father, seeing him in the hospital, touching him after he was dead. Those are things you can’t get out of your mind. It had an impact. It clearly still does.”

Shiffrin had a “weird a-ha moment” after her first track test this season in Finland in November.

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“It didn’t take me that long to inspect and I remembered the whole course,” she said. “Oh my god, I was like coming out of a cloud that I’ve been in for over two years.”

What followed, of course, was a win and a season approaching Shiffrin’s unparalleled 2018/19 season. Fourteen wins in 31 World Cup starts, her busiest season ever, and the season’s overall, slalom and GS titles in runaways.

“After last season I didn’t feel like I could get my skiing back to a level where it was actually competing for the slalom world,” she said. “And GS, which I actually had a little bit more hope for, but at the beginning of the season I kind of counted myself out.

“I feel that my highest level of skiing is higher than the previous seasons, maybe higher than my entire career. My average level of skiing is also higher than previous seasons, and my lowest level of skiing has also been higher.”

There are other reasons for the resurgence of dominance, though Shiffrin was also the world’s top skier last season (Olympics aside). She went out of her way on Saturday afternoon to honor her head coach for seven years, mike daywho left the team at the world championships after being told he would not be retained next season.

“He’s as much a part of this whole season’s success as he’s ever been,” said Shiffrin, who parted ways with Day to Karin Harjothe first woman to be her head coach as a pro.

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Shiffrin’s biggest success this season began around the time she saw a chairlift interview between retired Liechtenstein skier in mid-December Tina Weirather and Italian Sofia Gogia, the world’s best downhiller. Goggia spoke of her contempt for mediocrity.

“Since then, pretty much every time I put my skis on, I’m like, ‘Okay, don’t be mediocre today,'” Shiffrin said in January.

During the top highlights of this season, Shiffrin felt just like he did in 2018/19.

“It’s mind-boggling for me to be in a position again where I’ve felt that kind of momentum over a season, because after that [2018-19] season, I was like, this is never going to happen again, and my best days of my career are really behind me, which was kind of sad to feel that at this point four years ago,” said Shiffrin, who turned 28 last week old. “This season has certainly proven that you have to take 17 victories [from 2018-19] aside from the records or all those things, it’s still possible to feel that kind of momentum.

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