US ski star Mikaela Shiffrin overcame a chest cold to write herself into the alpine history books Saturday when she produced a devastating second run to win her fourth straight world slalom title.
The 23-year-old Shiffrin, who complained of “low-energy levels” after the first run in which she was third fastest, and breathlessness in the second, clocked a combined time of 1min 57.05sec.
Anna Swenn-Larsson won Sweden’s first medal of these championships with silver, 0.58sec behind, while newly-crowned giant slalom gold medallist Petra Vlhova of Slovakia took bronze (+1.03).
Her incredible performance was vindication for Shiffrin, who won super-G gold in the first week of action in Sweden but came in for criticism from, among others, now-retired teammate Lindsey Vonn, after deciding to skip the combined and downhill.
Just 0.15sec off in the first run, Shiffrin reacted perfectly under massive pressure on the second, taking aggressively to the snow from the off to time an outstanding 59.82sec, a huge 0.62sec faster than her closest rival, and a deficit big enough to guarantee a second gold at these worlds.
“Halfway down the (second) run I ran out of oxygen and I was just trying to fight to stay in the course if I could and do my best,” said a croaky-voiced Shiffrin, who won Olympic golds in slalom in 2014 and giant slalom last year in Pyeongchang.
“My skiing, especially on the second run, was really good. I was pushing really hard. I don’t want to think about how sick I was, I mean I was really pushing, maybe I couldn’t have done better if I was feeling normal!”
After a procession of the lower ranked skiers, Austrian Bernadette Schild, 12th fastest in the first run, made the first significant jump in timings.
The Austrian nailed a solid second run to time 2:00.46, her teammate Katharina Truppe, a member of Austria’s silver medal-winning squad in the team event, then taking over as leader as the top 10 readied themselves.
In sunny conditions with a strong crosswind, a third Austrian, Katharina Huber, went top of the leaderboard to send the raucous home fans crazy.
But that didn’t last long as Vlhova shot out of the start hut and laid down a near-faultless run to lay down the gauntlet to the top three racers to come.
Shiffrin in tears
Shiffrin, with a 0.31sec advantage, increased that to 0.62 at the first intermediary, a huge 1.18 at the second and 1.37 at the third, finally coming through the finish line with a massive lead of 1.03sec.
Next up was Swenn-Larsson, who immediately lost ground at the top section of the Gastrappet course but held on for at least a podium place as she finished behind Shiffrin and ahead of Vlhova, with just Wendy Holdener to race.
Holdener, who had alread won golds in the combined and team event for Switzerland, drew gasps from the large crowd as she messed up a gate up top, immediately ruling out her chances for a podium push.
“I feel very lucky right now,” acknowledged Shiffrin after saying she had been impressed by Holdener’s form when the pair trained together on Friday.
Shiffrin, whose very first World Cup victory came on the same Are slope back in December 2012, was left in tears at the finish area as victory dawned on her, with Holdener skiing down four seconds off the now-unassailable pace.
Not only is Shiffrin the first alpine skier, male or female, to win a specific event at four successive world championships, but she also became just the second woman to claim a world championships medal in the super-G, giant slalom and slalom in one year, after Mateja Svet in 1987 (giant slalom silver, super-G bronze, slalom bronze).