Skier will be­come World Cup over­all win­ner

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By John Meyer

aspen» When Switzer­land’s Lara Gut suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury at the world cham­pi­onships last month, Mikaela Shiffrin’s pur­suit of the World Cup over­all ti­tle lost the drama typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with the bat­tle for the most pres­ti­gious ti­tle in ski rac­ing. Gut was the de­fend­ing cham­pion, and the two had been locked in a riv­et­ing duel, but in her ab­sence the ti­tle be­came Shiffrin’s to lose.

Shiffrin will clinch it here Satur­day be­cause Ilka Stuhec of Slove­nia is the only re­main­ing racer with a math­e­mat­i­cal chance to over­take Shiffrin, and Stuhec will sur­ren­der that by not rac­ing Satur­day’s slalom at the World Cup Fi­nals.

Still, Shiffrin, 22, has been feel­ing pres­sure this week, even with the ver­dict en­sured. She un­der­stands the mag­ni­tude of the mo­ment: be­com­ing the fifth Amer­i­can to win the over­all, in the 50th year of the World Cup, 80 years af­ter the first ski race in Aspen. She will be­come the first Amer­i­can to clinch the over­all on home snow, and she wants to put on a per­for-

mance ap­pro­pri­ate to the oc­ca­sion. The Ea­gleVail phe­nom warmed up for the task by win­ning both races last week in Squaw Val­ley, Calif.

“It would be a big flop if I were to do some­thing crazy in these races, DNF (“did not finish”) twice and then, ‘Oh, well, at least I have the over­all.’ We’re in Aspen, it’s my home state and I re­ally want to put on a good show like I did in Squaw,” Shiffrin said. “Every­body is go­ing to be fir­ing on all cylin­ders here, and I feel like I have an obli­ga­tion to put out my very best ski­ing.”

So she wants to win Satur­day’s slalom, the dis­ci­pline she has dom­i­nated since 2013. If she wins Satur­day and wins the gi­ant slalom Sun­day, she will have 33 ca­reer vic­to­ries, ty­ing her with Bode Miller for sec­ond place on the all-time list of Amer­i­can World Cup race win­ners. Only Lind­sey Vonn has won more (77). It would also tie her for eighth place on the all-time women’s list.

If Gut hadn’t been hurt, the over­all might well have come down to Sun­day’s fi­nal race, and Shiffrin seems to gen­uinely miss the chal­lenge.

With Gut out, Shiffrin set a goal of fin­ish­ing the sea­son with more points than Gut scored in win­ning the over­all last sea­son (1,522), and she will; Shif­firin has 1,523 with more to come this week­end. She al­ready has more points than the last three women’s over­all win­ners.

“I don’t want to win any­thing be­cause some­one else crashed,” Shiffrin said. “I feel like I need to earn it some­how. The way that I feel that I can earn it is com­par­ing the points that Lara ac­cu­mu­lated last sea­son. I’m try­ing to make the most points pos­si­ble, and I’m pretty ex­cited about that. That’s a dif­fer­ent kind of a mo­ti­va­tion.”

Ezra Shaw, Getty Im­ages

Ea­gleVail’s Mikaela Shiffrin re­acts af­ter her vic­tory in a women’s World Cup slalom March 11 in Squaw Val­ley, Calif.

Mikaela Shiffrin eyes the finish line on the sec­ond run of a women’s World Cup slalom March 11 in Squaw Val­ley, Calif. Shiffrin all but clinched the over­all ti­tle with the win. Scott Sady, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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