American skier Mikaela Shiffrin continued her remarkable run by winning the giant slalom at Kranjska Gora on Saturday, her eighth win of the season.
Two months before turning 23, the Colorado native has already won half as many World Cup races as the winningest female ski racer of all time, American team-mate Lindsey Vonn.
While the 33-year-old Vonn added her 78th career win at a super-G in France last month, Shiffrin earned her 39th victory at a giant slalom on Saturday.
It was her third World Cup win in a row in all disciplines and her sixth in the last seven races, her form peaking with the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang just one month away. She became the first female skier with three straight wins at the start of a year since Vreni Schneider of Switzerland achieved the feat in 1989.
“Ha, so much math,” Shiffrin said. “To be honest, I am not really counting. It’s cool to think, maybe I can get 41 this season, or maybe 45. But if I start to think about records or numbers then it just makes me nervous.”
Only Annemarie Moser-Proell (41) and Ingemar Stenmark (40) won more races before they turned 23 in the 1970s.
“I am just having a blast racing and I wanted to keep that momentum going,” she said. “When I go on the starting gate every race, I am thinking I want to be confident. I want to show the people watching this that I am confident with my skiing and that I am being aggressive.”
Battling a virus and with rain falling on the course, Shiffrin lost more than half a second of a big first-run lead but still beat world giant slalom champion Tessa Worley of France by 0.31 seconds.
Sofia Goggia of Italy was 0.91 behind in third, followed by three more racers all within one second of Shiffrin’s winning time. Goggia’s Italian teammate Federica Brignone was 0.98 behind in sixth after winning the previous GS, in Lienz eight days ago.
“It is super fun to ski, I am super psyched about it,” said Shiffrin, who now leads the overall as well as all discipline standings except for super-G.
The US ski team said Shiffrin had been “battling a cold this week” but traveled across the Italian border on Friday to train in Tarvisio.
“A lot of the girls have been sick so I didn’t feel like it was an excuse for today. I wanted to come down and charge,” said Shiffrin, who has won six of the last seven World Cup events.
Wearing bib seven, Shiffrin avoided mistakes in an aggressive opening run to build a 0.86-second lead over Worley. She was a bit more conservative in her final run but her lead was never under threat.
“It’s not a very long course so even being a little bit sick I have enough energy for that,” she said after the opening leg. “I am really happy with my skiing. I was loose and really aggressive. That’s really exciting for me. I just tried to go out aggressive and it worked that run.”
Worley won the World Cup GS title last year but is still awaiting her first win of the season. Even a strong second run wasn’t sufficient on Saturday.
“I pushed hard, and I knew I had to because Mikaela did such a great first run,” Worley said. “I wanted to be in the game for the win. It wasn’t enough but I am happy with the race today.”
Goggia, who was last season’s revelation with 13 podiums including two wins on the Olympic course in Jeongseon, is also still winless.
“The first part of my season was pretty tough but today I am happy to have found my inner Goggia spirit again,” said the Italian after her third top-three result of the season.
A slalom on the same course is set for Sunday. This weekend’s races have been moved from Maribor because of a lack of snow and warm weather in the North-Eastern Slovenian resort.
Shiffrin is expected to retain the Olympic slalom title she won at the Sochi Games as well as having a shot at gold medals in the giant slalom and Super G.