Shiffrin takes second at Sestriere World Cup slalom as Wendy Holdener wins again
After winning at Killington, the Swiss steals a second straight World Cup slalom victory
It’s been awhile since a female Swiss skier has won back-to-back World Cup slaloms. On Sunday, Wendy Holdener inserted herself into the narrative. The 29-year-old, who won her first career World Cup slalom two weeks ago in Killington, was the class of the field at the Sestriere, Italy, event with a combined time of 1 minute 56.29 seconds, becoming the first Swiss since Vreni Schneider in 1994 to win two consecutive slaloms. Mikaela Shiffrin (1:56.76) was denied her 50th career slalom win, but finished in second to maintain a tie with Holdener in the discipline standings (at 325 points). Petra Vlhova (1:56.99), who posted the fastest first run, finished third.
“Yeah, I’m happy to be on the podium and maybe not totally satisfied but I think Wendy had an amazing second run,” Shiffrin said. “She’s skiing so well; she deserved it so much.”
All of the major players were in contention after run No. 1, led by Vlhova, who garnered an enormous amount of time on the final chapter of the 66-gate course, finding 0.16 seconds on the field in the fourth sector. Holdener, trailing Shiffrin by just 20 points in the discipline standings, turned in the second-best performance, 0.24 behind the Slovak. Shiffrin’s smooth skiing in the middle of the course put her in third, with 0.33 to make up. Meanwhile, Anna Swenn-Larsson — who shared the Killlington slalom win with Holdener, the first Swedish women’s slalom win since 2017 — lurked in fifth (0.49 back) and American Paula Moltzan (1.10 back) was in seventh.
The surprise storyline of the day, however, came courtesy of Swedish World Junior champion Hanna Aronsson Elfman. After her first run was killed by a disastrous second sector, the 19-year-old posted a serious threat from the 15th-starting position in run No. 2. She blitzed the course’s second steep section, holding speed through the flat section immediately following — a differential factor that would prove critical. Her mark of 56.69 had her in the leader’s chair until a woman with 76 World Cup wins finally booted her, but it remained the top second-run time of the day by an astonishing 0.85 seconds.
Despite a sunny, -5 degrees Celsius day to work with, U.S. coach Mike Day’s slightly more offset setup of the Giovanni A. Agnelli course on the 32% slope — particularly in the middle second steep into a flatter pitch — gave later-starting athletes fits as crust on the top layer started to form. Even veterans like Austrian Katharina Liensberger fell into the backseat, skis apart, throughout the difficult second sector.
Support Local Journalism
Moltzan, looking for her second career World Cup podium, benefited from her first-run advantage, gaining time in the top but losing it everywhere else. Even with her less aggressive approach on the lower section, Moltzan finished 0.02 behind Aronsson Elfman to go into second with six athletes remaining.
The course and conditions put Shiffrin’s characteristically nimble athleticism on full display. She navigated her coach’s setup beautifully, connecting turns up top, keeping a high-and-tight line to minimize losses through the second steep, and keeping her skis aggressively close in the bottom. Despite actually ceding 0.90 to Aronsson Elfman in the fourth sector — a credit to Aronsson Elfman more than anything else — her time of 1:56.76 guaranteed at least a 123rd-career podium.
“I’m happy with a lot of the turns I made and try to do more of the good things and less of the mistakes, but actually my second run was quite solid,” Shiffrin said. “So, I’m OK — maybe never really satisfied, but doing OK.”
Wendy Holdener’s smooth skiing throughout the course, particularly in the second sector, where she had the fastest time, was the difference, as the Swiss posted her second slalom win in as many tries. Vlhova’s second run (58.48) was enough to boot Aronsson Elfman off the podium, but dropped the defending Olympic slalom champion to third overall.
“Yeah it’s unbelievable. I heard at the start that Mikaela was in the lead, so I knew I had to give all I had. And I’m really happy that I skied the last part better and came to the finish with such a lead. So amazing,” Holdener told FIS reporters in the finish area.
“I’m happy because I’m consistent and of course it’s not so easy fight for podiums,” Vlhova said of a weekend that saw her in first place after both first runs. “A little bit, few mistakes, but at the end … happy.”
After being reminded of the elite company Holdener just joined — though, for what it’s worth, Schneider won six consecutive back in 1994 — the 29-year-old said, “Yeah it’s nice; most of the record has been Mikaela, so it’s cool that I have some small victories. It’s really nice to win here in front of this amazing crowd.”
For the Americans, Moltzan (1:57.36) finished fifth, her best result of the season so far. Zoe Zimmerman placed 27th in 2:00.58. Allie Resnick and Ava Sunshine, two skiers with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail ties, skied out on the first run, while Katie Hensien (44) and Nina O’Brien (39) failed to qualify for a second run.