Skiing superstar Mikaela Shiffrin extended one year-plus streak Friday afternoon on Bald Mountain and hopes to snap another one Sunday on the same mountain.
Shiffrin won her 11th straight women’s slalom race dating to January 2015 and defended her national title. She won by nearly 7 seconds.
It was her debut in this year’s U.S. Alpine Championships. She’ll race again Sunday in the giant slalom (9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.), an event she hasn’t won since Oct. 25, 2014, at a World Cup in Austria. She has come up short in the past 12 giant slaloms she has entered — although against stiffer competition than she’ll face in Sun Valley.
“I’m going to be treating this GS like a World Cup race,” Shiffrin said. “It’s a great hill and a great surface. I’ve put my best skiing into two of the World Cups this season in GS, but I didn’t make it to the finish in either one. Right now, I’m looking for the finish, but I’m also looking to make some of those really good turns.”
Shiffrin, 21, has built herself into by far the best women’s slalom skier in the world since charming the country while winning a gold medal in the event at the 2014 Winter Olympics. But this was supposed to be the season she became a more significant factor in the other alpine disciplines. A midseason knee injury stalled those plans.
She entered two super Gs and an alpine combined event this season on the World Cup circuit. She finished 15th and 29th in the super G and eighth in the alpine combined (super G and slalom).
“I feel like I need a little more experience, a little more training (in the speed events),” she said. “Next year the plan would be GS and slalom and figuring out what I can do in the super G.”
Still, that doesn’t mean Shiffrin is letting up on her slalom rivals. Despite breaking a World Cup record with a 3.07-second win this year and dominating the event when she was healthy, she’s about to start searching for flaws.
“The bigger the margin, the more pressure I feel,” she said. “It’s one thing to be behind and feel like you have to work to get to the top. It’s a whole other thing to stay at the top. I feel like it’s not worth it if I’m not improving, so after this season I’m going to be going back to the drawing board and try to figure out what I need to do to be even faster. I’m sure everybody else is, too.”
Finding room for improvement might be the biggest slalom challenge Shiffrin faces. Even her competitors have admitted she’s skiing on a different level.
“She’s in a league of her own,” said former World Cup skier Daron Rahlves, who was at Sun Valley this week in part to run the super G courses with four GoPros for the NBC broadcast Saturday (10:30 a.m.). “She’s not only the best in the world. She dominates the rest of the best in the world. ... A lot of skiers never have won by that much, and she wins consistently by that much.”
The courses built on Greyhawk played perfectly to Shiffrin’s strength because they demanded technical precision. More than half of the women’s field failed to finish the first run. Shiffrin ran it in 54.43 — a massive 4.18 seconds faster than anyone else. She added a 52.13 down a different course on the second run, which was 0.56 seconds faster than runner-up Lila Lapanja. Shiffrin’s total margin of victory was 6.73 seconds.
Despite the lopsided win, Shiffrin is committed to competing in the national championships. She won the slalom title in 2011 to earn her spot on the U.S. Ski Team.
“I love coming to nationals,” said Shiffrin, who will sign autographs from 4 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Brass Ranch at River Run. “I’ve been here every single year since my first year racing nationals. This is the event that got me on the U.S. Ski Team and got me racing World Cup, so it was really important for me.”
David Chodounsky won the men’s slalom national title Friday for the fourth time.
WATCH OUT FOR BREEZY
Breezy Johnson, 20, of Victor, Idaho, earned a World Cup downhill spot for next season by winning the U.S. downhill title earlier this month in Colorado. She has finished 10th in slalom, ninth in alpine combined and 18th in super G this week in Sun Valley.
“It’s cool to come here already having (a national title),” Johnson said. “I was hoping for a little better in the super G.”
Competing at Sun Valley has reminded Johnson of her childhood trips to the area with her family.
“It’s like being a little kid again,” she said. “It reminds me of all the stuff I used to do.”
U.S. ALPINE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Bald Mountain, Ketchum
1. Davis Chodounsky, 1:43.47
2. Robby Kelley, 1:45.83
3. Michael Ankeny, 1:46.36
4. Mark Engel, 1:46.52
5. Andrew McNealus, 1:48.20
6. Brennan Rubie, 1:48.54
7. Carl-Johan Oester, 1:49.31
8. Thomas Woolson, 1:49.32
9. Jack Keane, 1:50.03
9. Tucker Marshall, 1:50.03
1. Mikaela Shiffrin, 1:46.56
2. Lila Lapanja, 1:53.29
3. Roni Remme, 1:53.46
4. Anne-Solene Bregou, 1:53.84
5. Sofija Novoselic, 1:53.59
6. Ann-Kathrin Breuning, 1:54.37
7. Stephanie Lebby, 1:54.59
8. Patricia Mangan, 1:55.02
9. Courtney Altringer, 1:56.75
10. Breezy Johnson, 1:57.68
▪ Saturday: Men’s giant slalom (runs at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.) Awards at 2:30 p.m. Baldy Bash street party at 3 p.m. Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin will sign autographs at the Brass Ranch at River Run from 4 to 5 p.m.
▪ Sunday: Women’s giant slalom (runs at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.).