Shiffrin enlarges his legend

The American Mikaela Shiffrin reconfirmed her status as great figure of alpine skiing by winning giant gold this Thursday at the Alpine Ski World Championships in Courchevel and Méribel (France)where, after relegating the Italian Federica Brignone, who had won the combined match last week, to second place, she added her seventh intercontinental title. The 27-year-old Shiffrin, the superlative dominator of the king of winter sports in recent seasons, won her seventh title and her thirteenth World Cup medal, her second in these championships -after the silver he had achieved in the super-giant- by covering the two sleeves played on the Roc de Fer track in Méribel, in two minutes, seven seconds and thirteen hundredths, twelve less than Brignone and with a 22 advantage over the Norwegian Ragnhild Mowinckelwho advanced two places between drops and ended up capturing the bronze.

The super champion from Vail (Colorado), who for several years has won absolutely everything that can be won in alpine skiing and who is aiming for her fifth great Crystal Ball and to the absolute historical record of victories in the World Cup of the Swede Ingemar Stenmark (86) -of which one is a shot away-, achieved his sixteenth medal in major events this Thursday, placing himself only two behind another record, the one of medals in World Cups of the German Christl Cranz, sports muse of the III Reich, who won fifteen during the 30s, when the World Cups were held annually.

If – as it would not be at all crazy to think – Shiffrin achieved another medal in the slalom on Saturday, the star of ‘Team USA’ would stay just one trophy away from Cranz, which, if he maintains his level, he will undoubtedly surpass in two years’ time, in Saalbach (Austria). This Thursday, hand in hand, he matched the seven titles and thirteen metals in the World Cups held by the Swedish Anja Paerson, another great lady of the king of winter sports who, like her, is part of the select club of seven skiers who has successes in each of the disciplines, and that even the improvement in trophies in big events (19). Ten years ago, at 17, ‘Mika’ became, in Schladming (Austria), the youngest slalom world champion, title that he successfully defended in Beaver Creek’15 (USA), St.Moritz’17 (Switzerland) and Are’19 (Sweden), where he also captured gold in the super-giant.

In the World Cups in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy), two years ago, he won the combined; and this Thursday he equaled another ‘monster’ of skiing, the Austrian Marcel Hirscher, absolute record holder of global victories in the World Cup -with eight (in a row)- and also seven times world champion. Of his 85 victories in the World Cup, 52 were celebrated by Shiffrin in slalom (Absolute historical record of successes in the same discipline, after surpassing the 46 that Stenmark -great champion of the 70s and 80s- had achieved in the giant). So, if she wins on Saturday, the wunderkind-mutated super-sports predator will beat Paerson and Hirscher in one fell swoop.

This is how victory was forged

The North American forged her victory in the first round, in which she set the best time, exhibiting herself in the lower part of the Roc de Fer track -starting at 1,830 meters of altitude and 378 of unevenness-. Then the twelfth set was enough for him in the decisive descent to celebrate a new success with which to further enlarge his legend. Home crowd favourite, Tessa Worley, was the first to start; and her time improved it -with the number 3- in twelve hundredths Shiffrin; after the Swedish Sara Hector, who was proclaimed Olympic champion of the discipline last year at the Beijing Games, she stayed eight tenths behind the gala, before finishing thirteenth.

The Slovakian Petra Vlhova -Olympic gold in slalom and world champion of the discipline four years ago in Are (Sweden), who would not go beyond seventh place- he had stopped the clock an exact second from the great star of the winter sport in the first race; and the Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami, who defended the title achieved two years ago in Cortina -and who finished fourth-, had stayed 64 hundredths behind Shiffrin. Brignone, who had won the mixed test, the first of these championships, ousted Gut from provisional third placeby staying three tenths of the American ‘cannibal’, after the first seven completed the first descent, all of them candidates for victory.

Among those seven, only one other Italian, Marta Bassino -who had been proclaimed super-giant world champion last week- and that he also asked for letters in a discipline in which he celebrated his six victories in the World Cup, lost all option to gold at the first exchange. The skier from Cuneo had been a second and a half behind Shiffrin, who had surprised her hours before the event by announcing, through a statement from her federation, that she would immediately would part ways with his coach of the past seven years, Mike Dayand that he would face the rest of the season without a main coach.

Only the Norwegians Mowinckel (with the number 14) and Mina Fürst Holtmann (with the 20) got among the best, remaining seven and eight tenths behind, with fifth and sixth provisional place, respectively. In the second heat – in which the top thirty started in the reverse order of their qualification in the first and in which only sixty of the 114 who started took part – another American, Nina O’Brien, scored the first good reference, before advancing ten places and finishing eleventh. O’Brien signed the second set of the decisive descent, behind the New Zealand Alice Robinsonwho rallied thirteen places to finish in the ‘top 15’.

Until the descents of the Norwegian Thea Louise Stjernesund -eighth at the end- and Bassino began to improve the global times. Bassino, who seemed to have completely lost any option, set the third time on the second descent and rose eight places at once; to finish, eight tenths behind, in a very dignified fifth place. Mowinckel improved on the Italian; and the Swiss Gut was nine hundredths behind the Nordic, before finishing fourth, three tenths of Shiffrin. Of which Brignone would remain twelve, who advanced one place after he fell, in the decisive act -to the greater pain of the local fans and relief of the Norwegian-, Worley. Gut would end up off the podium because Shiffrin ensured his descent, added his umpteenth success and further exacerbated his legendin a season that is already historic and that could become unforgettable by the middle of next month.

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