Shiffrin wins 1st race after six-week injury layoff to lock up World Cup slalom season title

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ARE, Sweden (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin made a triumphant return to the Alpine skiing World Cup after a six-week injury layoff Sunday, dominating the season’s penultimate slalom for career win 96 and locking up her record-equaling eighth season title in the discipline.

Racing for the first time since hurting her left knee in a downhill crash in Italy, the American star posted the fastest times in both runs to beat Croatian prodigy Zrinka Ljutic by a massive 1.24 seconds and third-placed Michelle Gisin of Switzerland by 1.34.

“It was so nice to race again today and some nerves and all the emotions that I hoped to feel,” Shiffrin said. “Really proud of my team, and for sure proud of myself to get back here and show the skiing. The second run was some of my best skiing. I am just so happy to be able to do that again this season.”

Shiffrin had been out since she sprained the MCL and tibiofibular ligament in her knee in January, while also still recovering from a bone bruise she had sustained at the start of the season.

“I felt great with my first run skiing, but if I could be like a little bit more clean, it would feel better, also on the knee, so this run was like… I wouldn’t change one thing,” Shiffrin said.

With her Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova out for the season after knee surgery, the American’s only remaining challenger for the slalom season title was Lena Duerr.

The German skier had to win both Sunday’s race and the season-ending slalom at the World Cup finals in Austria next weekend to stay in contention, but finished fourth, 1.35 behind Shiffrin.

The season title is Shiffrin’s eighth in slalom, making her the fourth skier to win eight crystal globes – the traditional prize in Alpine skiing – in a single classification.

Former American teammate Lindsey Vonn achieved the feat in downhill. On the men’s side, Austrian standout Marcel Hirscher won eight overall championships, and Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark reached that number of titles in both slalom and GS.

The slalom title will be Shiffrin’s only globe this season. She skipped Saturday’s giant slalom on the same hill and won’t compete in the speed events of the finals, leaving her without enough races to close the 345-point gap on leader Lara Gut-Behrami. The Swiss star has all but secured her second overall title, after winning it for the first time in 2016.

Shiffrin positioned herself for Sunday’s victory by posting the fastest first-tun run time, edging out Gisin by 0.02 seconds and Ljutic by 0.11.

“It’s pretty special. I’ve been lucky to be able to race again this season and I’m really soaking it in. I am enjoying being back and my knee is holding up, it’s doing good work for me,” Shiffrin said after the opening run.

“I was pushing the whole way, and I when I feel the knee, it doesn’t distract me from skiing or from pushing my skis, so then that’s perfect.”

Shiffrin had just “four normal slalom sessions in the last seven weeks” coming into Sunday’s race.

“Right now, I feel really good about my skiing, but I just haven’t had a ton of practice, so maybe it takes a little bit more energy to get that level on that spot,” she said.

Shiffrin had previously made a winning return from an extensive mid-season break to nurse a knee injury. She didn’t race for nine weeks after getting hurt in December 2015, but won her comeback race at a slalom in Crans-Montana, Switzerland in February 2016.

The World Cup finals for both women and men wrap up the season over the next two weeks in Saalbach, the Austrian host venue of the 2025 world championships.


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