MIKAELA Shiffrin took her first step to world domination by storming to super-G gold on Wednesday, but there were tears for outgoing teammate Lindsey Vonn who crashed out.
Shiffrin herself overcame a near-crash halfway down the hard-packed course in temperatures of -18 Celsius (-0.4F) to clock a winning time of 1min 04.89sec, nudging out reigning Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia of Italy by two-hundredths of a second.
Switzerland’s Corinne Suter claimed bronze, at 0.05sec, herself just two-hundredths ahead of Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg in fourth.
“I don’t think this is going to sink in for a long time, it’s crazy!” said Shiffrin.
“It’s a really tight race, seven hundredths of a second to fourth place, these races are tough. It’s a small difference, it’s nothing.
“It was a fight, I knew everyone was pushing really hard. The surface is amazing so you could really go for it.
“It had to be a really good balance between risk and really nice turns. But I was going really aggressive, there was only one spot at the bottom where I had to fight to stay in the race.”
Shiffrin didn’t commit to what her programme might be in the coming week.
“I’m going to take a minute tonight and talk with my coaches to see what we think we could do for the rest of these champs,” the 23-year-old said.
Czech Ester Ledecka, who surprised the field to win super-G gold in Pyeongchang before going on to claim the parallel giant slalom in snowboarding, paid the price for two mistakes up high, only finishing in 1:07.69, well off the pace.
At least she finished. Vonn, in her final season, had no such luck.
The 34-year-old, who has announced she will retire after the championships in Are, Sweden, went down hard, but was able to ski down after receiving medical attention.
“If adversity makes you stronger I think I’m the Hulk at this point . . .” Vonn tweeted in reference to Marvel Comics’ green-skinned humanoid boasting supernatural strength.
Vonn misread a bump high up the course that pitched her forwards into a pole and then slid into the safety netting.
Medical staff were quickly on the scene to help her get gingerly back to her feet, to applause from the crowd around the finish line.
No sooner had the commentator announced that Vonn had form on the hill, having won two world silver medals in Are in 2007, than her skis kicked back off the rise to groans from the crowd.
Shiffrin was shown on the big screen television clutching her head as her teammate, who is just four wins short of Ingemar Stenmark’s World Cup record of 86, slid out at pace into the bright red netting.
“Everyone’s really relieved she was able to stand up and ski down. It looks like everything’s looking good that she can keep going for the next race,” Shiffrin said.
“I told her I was sorry, but I think at the end of the day there’s not much that you can say.
“She’s had this amazing, incredible, inspiring career, and she’s paved the way for US ski racing and all over the world, but especially in the US for the next generation to come up. We have a lot to be thankful for because of that.
“I hope she can have a clean run in the downhill because she can be really good here and find a way to have the perfect goodbye, to retire from the sport the best way she can.”
It was a case of deja vu for Vonn, who suffered a season-ending injury in the opening super-G of the 2013 world championships in Schladming.
Vonn will bow out after Are following 19 illustrious seasons that have seen her scoop a record 20 crystal globes, including four overall titles. She is also the 2010 Olympic downhill gold medallist, and won the world speed double in Val d’Isere in 2009.
Vonn was not the only casualty on the unforgiving slope.
Switzerland’s defending world super-G champion Jasmine Flury, Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, who won Olympic super-G bronze in 2018, and Austria’s world downhill silver medallist Stephanie Venier all bombed out.
Shiffrin’s victory confirmed her rise as the complete all-round skier.
Only three of the multi-medalled slalom specialist’s 56 wins on the World Cup circuit have come in the super-G.
The super-G gold adds to previous world titles in the slalom (2013, 2015, 2017) and a giant slalom silver (2017).