Colorado skier Mikaela Shiffrin wins gold in giant slalom World Championships

Slovenia Alpine Skiing World Cup
Marco Trovati/AP
United States’ Mikaela Shiffrin speeds down the course during an alpine ski, women’s World Cup giant slalom race, in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.

American skier Mikaela Shiffrin won the gold medal in the women’s giant slalom at the world championships on Thursday, a day after her unexpected split with longtime coach Mike Day.

Shiffrin overcame a mistake near the end of the race to hold on to her first-run lead. When she saw her time, she covered her mouth with her hands, then collapsed to the snow in joy, relief and celebration.

She stayed there for a few moments, breathing heavily from the exertion of her run.

Italian skier Federica Brignone, who was 0.12 seconds behind to take the silver, and Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway, who trailed by 0.22 for the bronze, came over to congratulate her.

“It’s been definitely some high levels of stress these days,” Shiffrin said. “It was very, very difficult today to keep the focus and keep the intensity on the right level.”

Shiffrin’s victory came two days after Day, her head coach since 2016, left her team during the middle of the championships. Shiffrin informed him that she planned to take a new direction with her staff at the end of the season and Day decided to leave immediately.

“One thing I really want to say is just thank you to Mike for seven years of — I can’t even say helping me — he’s been such an integral part of my team and being there to support me through some of the most incredible moments in my career and some of the most challenging moments of my career and also my life,” Shiffrin said.

“So it’s it’s just a little bit sad how it came down,” Shiffrin said, adding that she was hoping to give Day “the time and the notice” to figure out his own plans before the end of the season but that his sudden departure was “difficult for all of us to imagine” after “being such a tight group, really a family.”

World championship races don’t count toward the World Cup circuit, where Shiffrin has racked up 11 wins this season to take her overall tally to 85. She broke former teammate Lindsey Vonn’s women’s record of 82 last month and has moved within one of the overall mark set by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and 80s.

French skier Tessa Worley, who was second after the opening run, slid on her inside ski and fell in her second run.

“I felt my skiing was not relaxed enough,” Worley said. “I didn’t want to go for a medal, I wanted to go for the win.”

Worley, a two-time giant slalom world champion, had the added pressure of skiing in front of her home fans.

“This is not an easy position, with the home crowd favorite to ... I mean, thank you for cheering for me anyway,” said Shiffrin, who was the 2018 Olympic champion and won five of the last six giant slaloms on the World Cup circuit.

Brignone, who won gold in the combined event that opened the worlds last week, recovered from illness over the past days.

“I’m so proud, so happy, I managed to do it,” the Italian said. ”Today I was completely free, thinking about my skiing, I was able to put everything away.”

Competing in her first major event since not winning a medal in six starts at last year’s Beijing Olympics, it was Shiffrin’s first gold medal at the world championships after winning the combined title in 2021 in Italy.

“I feel really emotional right now,” Shiffrin said. ”It’s unbelievable, it’s 12 hundredths, it’s really a small margin. On the bottom I just went blind and was like, just ski faster. I don’t know how, just do it.”

It raises her tally to seven world titles and 13 medals overall from 16 career world championship races. She is in second place behind German skier Christl Cranz on the all-time list for the most individual medals won by a woman at the worlds. Cranz won 15 medals in the 1930s.

The victory makes Shiffrin only the fourth female skier to win world titles in four different disciplines, after previously winning four golds in slalom, one in super-G and the combined gold two years ago.

Shiffrin didn’t finish her opening event at the worlds last week when she straddled a gate in the slalom portion of the combined. She won silver in the super-G two days later.

Shiffrin’s last race at the worlds is the slalom Saturday.

Nina O’Brien posted the second-fastest time in the final run and improved from 21st to 11th position, while American teammate Paula Moltzan spun around and missed a gate halfway through her first run and did not finish. Moltzan fractured her hand in Tuesday’s team event, which the U.S. team won. Shiffrin did not compete in that event.

“The hand is as good as it was going to feel so I’m not disappointed with that,” said Moltzan, who had her glove taped to her ski pole during her run. “I think I just misjudged my turn a tiny bit and came inside a bit and couldn’t recover.”

The men’s giant slalom is scheduled for Friday.