She did it — Mikaela Shiffrin won at Kronenplatz, Italy, in Giant Slalom, making her the most successful female Alpine skier of all time and eclipsing Lindsey Vonn.
The visibility on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, was good. Thousands of fans had braved the below-freezing temperatures to cheer on the world’s best female technical skiers. Some snow flurries were not enough to impact the skiers on the very icy but perfectly prepared race course. The Kronplatz course is considered the most difficult Giant Slalom run on the women’s World Cup circuit, and the big question on everyone’s mind was, of course: was today the day Mikaela would make history?
After the first run, Mikaela Shiffrin was in the lead, followed by Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Berahmi in second and Italy’s Frederica Brignone in third. Valerie Grenier from Canada in fourth and Paula Moltzan again in fifth. Nina O’Brien from Team USA came in equal 29th with Sweden’s Lisa Nyberg and was the last to qualify for the second run as only the top 30 qualify. US skiers Katie Hensien and Stella Johansson came 44th and 50th, respectively, on the first run and thus did not qualify for the second run.
In Giant Slalom, the second run is run in reverse order to the ranking after the first run, meaning Nina O’Brien was the first to start. The 24-year-old put down a solid second run — the fifth fastest second-run-time — which catapulted her into 18th place overall. It is immensely gratifying to see her come back so strong from her injury incurred when she crashed at the Giant Slalom in the 2022 Beijing Olympics, breaking her left tibia and fibula.
Paula Moltzan had her best World Cup position in Giant Slalom after her first run, but unfortunately lost an edge on the bottom part of the second run and crashed, ending with a DNF overall for the US skier.
Everyone was holding their breath when it came to the final two skiers. Only 0.13 seconds separated the two skiers. Everything was possible. Shiffrin had a better start than Gut-Behrami out of the gates on the first run, giving her the lead ahead of the Swiss race skier. Therefore, Lara threw herself out of the starting gate to pip Mikaela. She finished with a combined lead of 0.98 seconds ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone’s combined runs, and her time seemed unbeatable.
Then it was Shiffrin’s turn, and the American shot out of the gates and delivered a run that looked so effortless and elegant that it was like watching an artist, not an athlete. The American produced a near-flawless run with just some minor mistakes on the lower half, but it was enough to take the lead from the Swiss by an incredible 0.45 seconds. The crowd exploded in cheers, and Shiffrin looked just blown away in the finish area, trying to recover her breath before skiing over to embrace Lara and Frederica and congratulate them.
In an interview just minutes after the finish in the finish area, Mikaela was speechless. The interviewer prodded her for an answer to the question, “This makes you the most successful female skier. What do you have to add?” Mikaela just shrugged and laughed and then very humbly said, “This morning, I saw before the first run all the course workers ready to slip the hill, and it’s the best conditions we have seen all season. They were slipping the course early in the morning, so thank you for that. That is all I have to add.”
It is so incredibly touching that the most successful female skier has managed to stay so grounded and humble despite her incredible success. She is a role model for young athletes, and you can see the admiration and respect her peers have for her. She deserves the title of GOAT, and we hope she takes the overall title from Ingemar Stenmark because she is an unrivaled talent.