KVITFJELL, Norway (AP): American skier Mikaela Shiffrin accomplished what she called “the big, big goal for me this season.”
But it wasn’t a record-tying 86th career victory.
Shiffrin on Saturday locked up her fifth overall World Cup title, widely regarded as ski racing’s biggest prize, by tying for fifth place in a downhill.
“That’s really amazing. That (overall title) was like the big, big goal for me this season,” Shiffrin said. “I had such a big focus on it that I was even talking about it in interviews in the beginning of the season. Normally I don’t talk about it so much because it takes a long time to figure out if you can do it.”
The American’s quest for another race win was extended by at least another day, as she was set to compete in a super-G Sunday.
Shiffrin needs one victory to match Ingemar Stenmark ’s total on the all-time overall winners list — between men and women. The Swede competed in the 1970s and 80s.
Shiffrin broke a tie on the all-time women’s list with former American teammate Lindsey Vonn in January. Vonn had 82 wins when she retired in 2019.
Saturday’s race was won by home favorite Kajsa Vickhoff Lie, who became the first Norwegian woman to win a downhill in the 56-year history of World Cup skiing.
“We are so used to the (Norwegian) men winning downhills, so I didn’t even know that before this season,” Lie said. “For me, I wanted to win a downhill, that’s been my dream. And it’s always been a dream of me to have a home race, to have everybody here. I wanted to give them a show.”
Sofia Goggia finished 0.29 seconds behind in second as the Italian secured the season-long downhill title again.
“I feel great, I mean, it’s my fourth downhill globe, the third in a row, I’m really happy about that,” Goggia said. “But I’m not so happy about the performance of today. I didn’t ski that well, wasn’t smooth as in the training runs.”
Olympic champion Corinne Suter and two-time former world champion Ilka Stuhec placed third and fourth, respectively.
Shiffrin and Austrian skier Ramona Siebenhofer both finished 0.79 seconds behind Lie.
The result, however, was enough for Shiffrin to extend her lead in the overall standings to an insurmountable 796 points with seven races left. Her only competitor for the big crystal globe, two-time former overall champion Lara Gut-Behrami, finished 21st.
“It’s pretty wild, actually. The overall, or any season title, is always strange to explain how it feels on the day you win it when you don’t win the race,” Shiffrin said.
“I think people find it exciting when there is a battle to the final race,” she added. “But there’s so many things left going on this season, and it’s been so incredible, so for me it’s quite special to have it now already. I can take a little bit of weight of my shoulders.”
Shiffrin previously won the overall title three years in a row from 2017-19, and again last year. She moved past Vonn into outright second position on the all-time women’s winners list, one short of the mark of six titles set by Annemarie Moser-Proell in the 1970s.
The overall record is held by another Austrian great, Marcel Hirscher, who won it for eight straight seasons from 2012-19.
Her overall championship came five weeks after Shiffrin wrapped up the season title in slalom for a record seventh time.
Asked in a post-race TV interview about her remaining goals for the season, Shiffrin did not mention the Stenmark record.
“If I had like one final wish for the season, maybe it’s wishing for too much, but the GS globe would be like, yeah…,” Shiffrin said. “Then I could be pretty satisfied with the season.”
Shiffrin has an 118-point lead in the giant slalom standings with two races left.
The race on the Olympiabakken course, which is an annual track on the men’s circuit but hosted women’s races for the first time in 20 years, took place in sunny conditions, but strong winds affected the race.
Organizers decided to adapt the course and bypass the Russi jump which it deemed potentially too dangerous after skiers jumped there as far as 50 meters (yards) in training.
Cornelia Huetter, who won Friday’s super-G, lost her balance and slid off the course halfway through her run, but the Austrian avoided injuries.