Mikaela Shiffrin edged by Petra Vlhova in first World Cup slalom of the season
LEVI, FINLAND — Petra Vlhova beat Mikaela Shiffrin in the first World Cup slalom of the season Saturday.
The Slovakian overall champion had been training for three weeks in Lapland and skipped a parallel event in Austria last week to get ready for the first race in her strongest discipline.
The tactics paid off.
Vlhova posted the fastest time in both runs. She initially lost a few hundredths from her slim lead of 0.11 over Shiffrin but accelerated near the end of her final run to win by 0.31 as the pair continued their dominance in the annual event in Lapland.
Lena Dürr finished 0.84 behind in third for the German skier’s second career podium result, nearly nine years after winning a city event in Moscow.
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No skier other than Vlhova or Shiffrin has won the traditional season-opening slalom since then-overall champion Tina Maze triumphed in 2014. Shiffrin and Vlhova have now each won it four times.
It was Vlhova’s 21st career win and first since working with her Swiss coach Mauro Pini, who replaced Livio Magoni in the offseason.
Magoni had coached Vlhova for five years and the Italian helped her become the first overall champion from Slovakia, but he was forced to leave following unflattering remarks on Vlhova’s style of skiing reportedly made by him in an interview with an Italian newspaper.
“I feel more happy, more free. That’s it,” Vlhova said about working with Pini. “I don’t change if I change my coach. I’m still the same. Today was just an amazing day for me as well as for my team.”
Vlhova received her fourth reindeer, a prize for the winner of the race, and said she would name it Michal.
“That is the name of my boyfriend. He is here and he is the love of my life,” Vlhova said.
Having dealt with a back issue that hampered her training over the past few weeks, Shiffrin was made to wait at least one more day in her bid to match the 32-year-old record for most World Cup victories in a single discipline. Currently on 45 slalom wins, the American is one short of Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark’s best mark in giant slalom. Another slalom is scheduled for Sunday.
The American three-time overall champion was gracious in defeat.
“I think it was clear that Petra had, all together, better skiing and better consistency,” Shiffrin said.
“It’s easy to start getting greedy and I feel like in order to win races you really have to earn it and I earned the second place today but I didn’t quite earn the win.”
After three races, Shiffrin has 180 points and the overall lead, Andreja Slokar of Slovenia follows with 168 and Vlhova has 160.
“It was a quite successful day, especially when I look at the last three or four weeks,” Shiffrin said. “I had some good skiing and I had some sections that certainly weren’t perfect but still quite good. It’s always really great to start the season with a podium, so that’s awesome.”
Shiffrin was able to get on snow at Copper Mountain last week as she worked her way back from injury. Despite favorable snow conditions in Levi, Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard that she lacked confidence going into a pitch like the Levi Black slope. “It was like the first five or six turns … I don’t know … it was like I was skiing backwards,” she was quoted as saying about her struggling to lock in timing at the beginning of the race. “It was just a little bit wrong timing, and it doesn’t take much to lose a lot of speed, especially with this snow because it’s so responsive.”
U.S. Ski and Snowboard reported that Shiffrin was pleased with her adjustments in the second run on the top flat section and is eager to bring those positives into tomorrow’s slalom.
“Tomorrow is a new race day, and we really have no idea what’s going to happen, but we’re going to fight,” Shiffrin stated.
Other locals saw action in Levi as well. Paula Moltzan, the Ski and Snowboard Club Vail local was in 18th after a decent first run, but DNFed her second.
Nina O’Brien, who lists Edwards as her hometown, did not qualify for a second run.
North American Cups 1 and 2 have been and are still taking place through Tuesday at Copper Mountain, and several locals and newly named U.S. team members have posted impressive results.
In the women’s giant slalom on Nov. 18, Allie Resnick was the top American, finishing 8th overall. Ava Sunshine Jemison was 0.04 seconds behind Resnick in 9th as three Americans — 17-year old Tatum Grosdidier being the other — finished in the top 10 in a field of athletes from Sweden, Italy, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Norway, Japan, Croatia, Belgium, Slovakia and Finland.
Nellie Talbot, a Vail native and former SSCV athlete currently racing for Montana State, nailed her second run and finished in 16th. 16-year olds Kjersti Moritz and Liv Moritz impressed for SSCV as well, placing 19th and 26th respectively. Kaitlin Keane, Gabriella Holm, Parker Biele and Carissa Cassidy of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, earned second runs Thursday as well, finishing in the top 50. The winner was Estelle Alphand of Sweden.
The story Friday was Resnick’s first run — which placed her in fourth — and subsequent DNF in the second run, which knocked her out of the placing. Kjersti Moritz hopped into the top ten, however, and was the third American, less than a half second behind veterans Keely Cashman and Alix Wilkinson. Estelle finished behind winner Federica Brignone in Friday’s giant slalom.
On Saturday, four Americans placed in the top seven, with local Bridger Gile in sixth. Vail Mountain School senior Nick Kirwood showed no rust after a fall of leading the Gore Rangers through the state soccer playoffs, finishing in 39th, in front of a few former SSCV skiers now in the NCAA ranks, including Max Bervy, a senior at the University of Colorado. Kirwood moved up nine places after his second run. Jacob Dilling, a freshmen for the Buffs and former SSCV athlete as well, was 19th.
This article includes original reporting from Ryan Sederquist, Vail Daily.