US Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin kicked off the FIS Alpine World Cup series with an incredible back-to-back win in the slalom on November 19 and 20 in Levi, Finland. Mikaela pipped Olympic Gold medalist Petra Vlhová from Slovakia, who came third on both days and has won in Levi five times. Anna Swenn-Larsson of Sweden came second on Saturday, and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener came second on Sunday.
Levi is close to the arctic circle and the Santa Claus village of Rovaniemi. The victor in Levi is given a reindeer as a prize by Santa Claus, who did not miss a great photo-op with the world’s most successful slalom racer. This takes Mikaela’s herd of reindeer to six, the most any Alpine skier has won in Levi. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhová held the record until now with five reindeer.
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Mikaela Shiffrin has now won a total of 76 World Cup titles across the six alpine disciplines, bringing her closer to beating the total record for World Cup victories held by Ingemar Stenmark of 86 wins. The most recent triumph takes Mikaela to 49 slalom wins and 68 podiums, making her the best slalom skier of all time. It also makes it the most victories in any single discipline in Alpine.
Germany’s Lena Dürr was in the lead after the first run on Saturday, but in a repeat performance from the Beijing Olympics, could not hold on to the lead on her second run, finishing fourth again. On Sunday, Lena was in second place after the first run and finished again in fourth, leaving the devastated German without a podium on both days. In a demonstration of true sportsmanship, Mikaela was in the finish area to comfort Lena after her second run that had pushed her down to fourth.
Mikaela looked elated in the finish area, gave Santa a big hug, and posed for cuddles with her reindeer each evening at the presentation. She named Saturday’s reindeer “Sunny” in honor of fellow Team USA skier Ava Sunshine, who had celebrated her World Cup debut this weekend. Ava came 21st on Saturday and 27th on Sunday. Mikaela named her sixth reindeer “Lorax” in honor of her late father. Her other four reindeer are named “Sven,” “Rudolph,” “Mr. Gru,” and “Ingemar” in honor of Swedish race skier Ingemar Stenmark.
It was a fantastic kick-off to the Women’s FIS Alpine World Cup season for Team USA. The series continues the following weekend, November 26-27, 2022, with a Giant-Slalom and Slalom Event in Killington. Since both these events are considered ‘technical events’ rather than ‘speed events’ such as downhill or super-G, we can expect to see the same field as Levi next weekend.