CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – It’s been several seasons now that Mikaela Shiffrin has been taking over from Lindsey Vonn as the top racer on the U.S. Ski Team – and the overall World Cup leader.
The succession may have been completed Sunday, when Shiffrin won a super-G and Vonn announced it might have been her final race on the circuit after failing to finish.
“You can make what you want of it,” Shiffrin said. “Because I won it and it’s her last race I don’t necessarily think there’s some incredible connection on that but I do think that it must be incredibly emotional for her to be in her final season.”
Vonn, who went off course midway down, broke down in tears when she was presented with a bouquet of flowers in the finish area by Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia.
Vonn was planning on retiring in December. She returned this weekend from her latest injury – to her left knee – but her best result in three races was ninth in Saturday’s downhill.
“I’ve had four surgeries on my right knee. I’ve got no LCL (lateral collateral ligament) on my left knee. I’ve got two braces on. There’s only so much I can handle and I might have reached my maximum,” Vonn said. “I’m not sure. I’ve got to take a couple days’ time and really think about things.”
Vonn was one of Shiffrin’s idols growing up.
“She’s been inspiring for a lot of young racers and a lot of athletes coming out of the U.S. Ski Team and a leader in the sport all over the world for a long time,” Shiffrin said.
Taking advantage of a tricky course set by one of her coaches, Shiffrin finished 0.16 seconds ahead of Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein.
Tamara Tippler of Austria finished third, 0.18 behind.
Vonn was in podium contention until she clipped a gate midway down and got bounced off course.
Vonn holds the record of 12 wins in Cortina while this was Shiffrin’s first victory at the Italian resort.
With her 54th win, Shiffrin matched Hermann Maeir for sixth place on the all-time list.
Vonn stands second on the all-time wins list with 82 victories, four shy of the record held by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark. Vonn broke Annemarie Moser-Proell’s women’s record with victory No. 63 in Cortina four years ago.
“Her mentality was something we had never seen before,” Weirather said of Vonn. “She raised the whole sport to the next level.”
Vonn wasn’t the only top skier who failed to finish. More than a third of the 61 starters also DNF’d on a course set by Vonn’s longtime coach Alex Hoedlmoser.
Shiffrin has now won three of the four super-Gs this season.
“My biggest challenge was to keep my expectations low but my standards high,” Shiffrin said. “Pushing my skiing, doing my best with my turns, having good tactics and being aggressive but not to expect that I would win the race because anything can happen.”
Having recently competed in a long block of technical races – her specialty – Shiffrin had only one day of super-G training over the past month.
“Today my feeling was just keeping everything flowing and moving forward and if I made a mistake then forget about it and keep going,” Shiffrin said. “So it was a nice way to ski that.”