U.S. star Shiffrin rides near-flawless final run to 1st slalom victory in a year
Prevails by 0.19 seconds; Quebec's St-Germain 8th for 3rd top-10 finish of season
Not known for exuberant victory celebrations, Mikaela Shiffrin let out a loud scream this time after crossing the finish line.
Shiffrin's victory in a night slalom Tuesday in Flachau, Austria was unlike most of her previous 67 World Cup wins.
In the last slalom before next month's world championships, Shiffrin ended a year-long victory drought in her strongest discipline and earned her 100th World Cup podium.
"I felt, like, inspired, I just felt alive. I was pushing. It's hard to explain. I wish I could explain," said the American, who was away from the circuit for much of 2020 because of the death of her father and a back injury.
Shiffrin is the 2014 Olympic gold medallist and four-time world champion but last triumphed in slalom in December 2019.
On Tuesday, she held on to her opening-run lead and beat Katharina Liensberger by 0.19 seconds following a near-flawless final run, denying the Austrian her maiden career win, and the Austrian team a first slalom win since November 2014.
Liensberger is the only skier to finish in the top three of all five slaloms so far this season.
"So much energy has been building up, it all, like, went out on that run," said Shiffrin, who clocked a two-run time of one minute 47.92 seconds. "What can I say? That's cool."
8th skier with 100 podium finishes
After dominating the circuit for three straight seasons, Shiffrin lost her overall title to Federica Brignone last year.
The American has been gradually working her way back after her 10-month break. She won her first race since her return at a giant slalom in France in December before adding the second on Tuesday.
The result made Shiffrin the eighth skier in the 54-year-long history of the World Cup to reach 100 podium finishes.
On the women's side, only Lindsey Vonn (137), Annemarie Moser-Proell (114), Renate Goetschl (110) and Vreni Schneider (101) have more top-three finishes than Shiffrin.
"I definitely wasn't thinking about records today," the American said. "I just wanted to ski well. This slope kind of tripped me up the last couple of years and I just wanted to ski, like, I don't know, strong and inspired. It's really, really fun tonight."
Wendy Holdener was 0.43 behind in third, extending her record to 25 podiums without winning a race in the slalom discipline.
8-for-8 in podium finishes at Flachau
Overall World Cup leader Petra Vlhova, who won three of the previous four slaloms this season, placed fourth.
Michelle Gisin in fifth was 1.52 off the lead. Two weeks ago, Gisin won in another Austrian resort, Semmering, to become the first skier other the Shiffrin or Vlhova to win a World Cup slalom in 29 races since January 2017.
Laurence St-Germain of St. Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., earned her third top-10 finish of the season, placing eighth in 1:50.70, 2.78 seconds behind Shiffrin.
The performance marks a third-consecutive year finishing in a top-15 spot at Flachau for St-Germain, who acknowledged the unusual environment.
"It was weird to be here with no fans," she said. "Normally you can hear the crowd the whole way down and it was so silent, but it was still such a great race and the snow was really good."
Shiffrin has finished on the podium here all eight times she competed in the floodlit race since 2013, including four wins.
She has won a record 44 World Cup slaloms and 68 races overall, putting in her outright third place on the all-time winners list, one ahead of Marcel Hirscher.
Only Ingemar Stenmark (86) and Vonn (82) have more wins.
The race was the last slalom before the world championships in Italy in February.
The women's World Cup continues with two giant slaloms in Kranjska Gora this weekend, after the races were moved for another Slovenian resort, Maribor, because of a lack of snow.
With files from CBC Sports