Top women to watch at the Alpine skiing world championships, which open Monday in Courchevel and Meribel, France:
Competing in her first major event since failing to win a medal at last year’s Beijing Olympics, Mikaela Shiffrin will again be a contender in every race she enters. She’ll likely compete in at least four events: combined, super-G, giant slalom and slalom. Shiffrin has a mind-boggling record of 11 medals in 13 career races at worlds — including more than half of them (six) gold. If the American can match her four podium finishes at the last worlds in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, two years ago, she’ll match the record of 15 career medals at worlds achieved by German skier Christl Cranz in 1939.
Petra Vlhova has been Shiffrin’s main rival for years in the technical events of slalom and giant slalom but has not been at her best this season with only one World Cup win. The Slovak will aim to replicate how she produced her best racing last season in the biggest race — winning Olympic gold in slalom to claim her country’s first ever medal in Alpine skiing at the games. However she fares, Vlhova will likely have the biggest dedicated following of any female skier, as large groups of Slovakian fans attend all of her races.
For Italian downhiller Sofia Goggia, it seems, every race is make or break. If she makes it to the finish, she usually wins. Otherwise, she often crashes. But she comes back quickly from injuries, as evidenced when she claimed a silver medal in downhill at the Beijing Olympics despite injuring a ligament in her left knee and sustaining a light fracture in that leg two weeks before the games. In December, Goggia was at it again, breaking two fingers in her left hand one day then winning a World Cup downhill a day later after emergency surgery. Goggia missed her home worlds in Cortina two years ago because of injury and sat out her final race before these championships as a precautionary measure following another fall. The outright favorite in downhill with four wins in the six World Cup races in that discipline this season, Goggia will also be a medal contender in super-G.
Lara Gut-Behrami isn’t too far behind Shiffrin with eight career medals at worlds. And the Swiss skier has been on quite a run at her last two major championships, claiming two golds in Cortina two years ago in super-G and giant slalom then also winning the super-G at the Beijing Olympics. Previously, despite having won the overall World Cup title in 2016, she had never won a major championship gold. Gut-Behrami has placed in the top five in 10 consecutive World Cup races entering worlds, in three events: giant slalom, super-G and downhill.
After claiming silver medals in both downhill and giant slalom at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics before missing the entire 2019-20 season because of a serious knee injury, Norwegian racer Ragnhild Mowinckel is getting back into top form. She won a super-G in Cortina last month and then finished second in a giant slalom at Kronplatz in her final race before the worlds for her first podium in that event since before her injury. A decade ago, she won three golds and five medals overall at the junior worlds.
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