Mikaela Shiffrin second to Vlhova in slalom
Mikaela continues to hold slalom lead
It was Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova’s day as she built a 1.16-second lead during the first run of Saturday’s World Cup slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, and cruised home to a win with Mikaela Shiffrin 1.31 seconds in the rear-view mirror in second place.
Austria’s Katharina Liensberger rounded out the podium a whopping 3.49 seconds back.
With the win, Vlhova officially wins the title of Snow Queen, the informal title of the annual Croatian slalom winner, but that final honor, the World Cup championship, continues to trend toward Shiffrin.
“Petra just did an amazing job both runs,” Shiffrin told The Associated Press. “She skied really well today. That’s the fight and it is really an honor to be part of that.”
This would probably be a good time to remind everyone that in a parallel universe without Mikaela Shiffrin, Vlhova would be considered a generational talent in the slalom. The Slovakian put up 877 points in 12 slalom events last season but finished second in the points because Shiffrin won 10-of-12, and finished as the runner up in the other two events for 1,160 of a possible 1,200 points.
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Vlhova accounted for both of those “losses.” Eight-hundred-seventy-seven points in a season would have won Vlhova the slalom globe in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Shiffrin has raised the game in the discipline that much.
Vlhova also led the season-opening slalom in Levi, Finland, before DNF-ing as the last racer of the day, giving Shiffrin the win.
Vlhova wasn’t giving away another first-run lead on Saturday.
In the fun trivia department, according to FIS, this is the 24th consecutive slalom won by either Shiffrin or Vlhova. One has to go back to the Flachau, Austria, slalom on Jan. 10, 2017, for the last time one of these two didn’t win a slalom. Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter and Norway’s Nina Haver-Løseth tied for first, while Shiffrin and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener finished in third. (Yes, two ties on the podium.)
In the post-race news conference, via FIS Soundcloud, Shiffrin essentially said that Vlhova skied well and deserved the win.
“I felt like my first run was pretty good. Some spots, compared to how I wanted to ski the course, some spots my timing was off. … Even if I had no mistakes, Petra would have been faster. She had much better execution. She was doing a better job taking the speed, all of those things.”
Shiffrin liked her second run, and the numbers bear that out. She was only 0.15 seconds off the pace.
“I tried to be more aggressive on the second run. I tried to bring more intensity and sometimes with a shift of my attitude I’m able to do that. Today, it was good enough for second, enough to be quite good, ahead of everybody else, but not good enough to go ahead of Petra.”
And Shiffrin expects to see more of Vlhova this season.
“She just skied really well. She can do this again and again. I’ve said a lot of times I don’t expect to win races, especially when I have these kinds of competitors. If I’m not 100 percent with my energy, mentality, physicality and my training, then it’s always going to be a battle.”
• While Vlhova got the better of Shiffrin on Saturday, the Slovakian’s DNF in Levi is looming large with regard to the slalom points. Shiffrin has 380 of a possible 400 points with wins in Levi, Killington, Vermont, and Lienz, Austria, and a second on Saturday, while Vlhova is second with 260.
•The aforementioned DNF accounts for 100 of Shiffrin’s 120-point lead her chase for her eighth slalom globe in nine years. With Shiffrin finishing second on Saturday, Vlhova only gained 20 points with the win.
• Shiffrin maintains a comfortable lead in the overall chase. She’s at 826 points, essentially three races ahead of Vlhova (513). Italy’s Federica Brignone is third with 451.
• Shiffrin said in the post-race news conference that she has made no decision on whether she will start in Zauchensee, Switzerland, which will host a downhill and a combined next weekend.
That said, there are three tech events the week after Zauchensee with a slalom in Flachau and giant slalom and parallel slalom in Sestriere, Italy. Given Shiffrin’s heavy participation in speed events and an uncharacteristic 17th-place finish in a giant slalom last month, it’s not hard to see her focus on tech.