Shiffrin leads WCup slalom, closes in on 8th straight win
FLACHAU, Austria (AP) — Petra Vlhova of Slovakia won a women’s World Cup night slalom Tuesday, denying Mikaela Shiffrin a record-equaling eighth consecutive win in the discipline.
Racing in dense snowfall, Vlhova was third after the opening run but posted the fastest second-run time.
Vlhova fell on her knees and buried her face in the snow after Shiffrin, the American two-time overall champion, finished her run 0.15 seconds behind the Slovakian winner.
“It is amazing, this is my best day ever,” Vlhova said. “I spoke with my coach before the second run: ‘It’s our time and we have to just go.’ And I did it, I finally beat Mika.”
Vlhova had finished runner-up to Shiffrin in each of the previous five slaloms this season, and she is the only skier other than the American to win a women’s World Cup slalom since the start of last season.
“I am really emotional, I finally beat Mikaela. She is really strong,” Vlhova said. “She pushes me to my limits. We always have a good fight. But today I did the perfect run and I won.”
Her fifth career slalom victory made Vlhova the most successful skier in the discipline from Slovakia, surpassing Veronika Velez Zuzulova, who had four wins when she retired at the end of last season.
Shiffrin, who holds the women’s record of 37 slalom wins in total, had posted the fastest time in the opening run.
However, she led Vlhova by just 0.31, and acknowledged between the runs: “It’s an open race and we start again the second run. It’s not a big gap at all.”
While Vlhova impressed with a dazzling attack in the final run to put pressure on Shiffrin as the last starter, the American soon lost a quarter of a second from her advantage as she caught a spot of soft snow on the weakened course.
Shiffrin was already 0.11 off the lead with her third split time and lost four hundredths more before finishing.
“I can’t say I am not disappointed but a second place is also not bad,” said Shiffrin, who was full of praise for Vlhova.
“She has been skiing really strong, really disciplined and really aggressive, so for sure she deserves to win,” the American added. “Every race this season she has been doing really good. Especially in the second run, she is getting stronger and stronger. I have to fight really hard to match her or to be even better.”
It was the first World Cup slalom since the Pyeongchang Olympics in February which Shiffrin failed to win.
The result left her one short of the all-time record of eight straight slalom wins, set by Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider in 1989 and matched by Croatia’s Janica Kostelic in 2001.
Shiffrin had come close to matching the record once before. After returning from a knee injury, she won the last seven slaloms of the calendar year 2016 but failed to finish the opening run of the first race in 2017.
In fact, at that time Shiffrin had won the last 12 slaloms she competed in, but had missed five races due to the injury.
Tuesday’s race was the one with the highest prize money on the women’s tour, with winner Vlhova receiving 70,000 euros ($80,000), only slightly less than the 74,000 euros the winner of the classic men’s downhill race in Kitzbuehel will get later this month.
More than a second behind Vlhova and Shiffrin, Austria’s Katharina Liensberger was third for her first career podium. Initially, Anna Swenn Larsson of Sweden ranked third, but she was disqualified shortly after the race for straddling a gate midway down her final run.
Wendy Holdener of Switzerland and Olympic slalom champion Frida Hansdotter of Sweden placed fourth and fifth, respectively. Hansdotter, who won the event in 2015 and 2017, had been on the podium in each of the last seven editions of the race.
Shiffrin’s American teammate Paula Moltzan posted the second-fastest time in the final run finished 12th for her career-best result.
Moltzan’s previous best was 15th in a slalom in France last month, though she seemed set for a top-10 finish in Croatia on Saturday before straddling a gate late in her final run.
The women’s World Cup remains in Austria, moving to St. Anton for a downhill and a super-G this weekend.