Vlhova wins 15th career World Cup slalom
Victory in Lienz inches Slovakian closer to Shiffrin in overall standings
Some athletes train to race, and others race to train. With the Beijing Olympics quickly approaching, one athlete with gold medal aspirations has taken the route of simply racing less and training more.
Petra Vlhova’s decision to insert a midseason training block into her Olympic buildup, sacrificing World Cup race opportunities in the process, is already starting to pay dividends. The Slovakian, whose primary goal for the season is to become the first Alpine skier from Slovakia to win an Olympic medal, fearlessly attacked the 62-gate slalom course in Lienz, Austria, on Wednesday to claim her third slalom win in four tries this season. Her only defeat so far in the 2021-22 season came in Killington, Vermont, where Mikaela Shiffrin, who remained out of action Wednesday due to COVID-19, bumped her into second. The victory was Vlhova’s 15th career World Cup slalom win.
“It feels good because today wasn’t easy,” she told FIS reporters after the race. “It was really tough — we were so close.”
Vlhova, the final racer to push out of the gates, spoiled Katharina Liensberger’s attempt to win in her home country. Her second-place finish was the first Austrian podium in Lienz in eight years. The 2018 Olympic gold medalist Michelle Gisin, of Switzerland, finished in third. The podium placers were within 0.27 seconds of each other going into the final run, with Gisin just 0.08 off of Vlhova. That the race came down to the wire was unexpected for Liensberger, who remains in third place in the overall World Cup standings.
“Maybe I didn’t expect to have raced, like, really close, but conditions were perfect. At the end it’s another victory in slalom so I’m happy because I feel good,” Liensberger told FIS. “I’m confident in slalom right now.”
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When asked about her aggressive approach to the second run, Vlhova indicated that she knew she had more to give after a less than satisfying opener, which still rocketed her into first place.
“After the first run, I skied not so perfect, and I felt OK, but I knew I could go faster, so I tried to do it in the second run,” she said.
Vlhova currently leads the slalom season standings by 120 points over Edwards resident Mikaela Shiffrin. The next World Cup slalom is a night event in Zagreb, Croatia, on Jan. 4, eight days after Shiffrin announced on Instagram that she tested positive for COVID-19. FIS rules state that an athlete must refrain from competition for 10 days after a positive result and receive a negative PCR test before being permitted to participate.
1. Mikaela Shiffrin, USA – 750
2. Sofia Goggia, ITA – 657
3. Petra Vlhova, SVK – 615
4. Sara Hector, SWE – 424
1. Petra Vlhova, SVK – 380
2. Mikaela Shiffrin, USA – 260
3. Katharina Liensberger, AUT – 202
4. Wendy Holdener, SUI – 191
Paula Moltzan, who finished in 22nd yesterday, led the American contingent again, coming through the first run with the 26th fastest mark in the field. Her second chance on the course bumped her up six places into 20th. The rest of the U.S. squad — A.J. Hurt, Katie Hensien and Nina O’Brien — did not finish the first run.
The American men were also in action Tuesday and Wednesday morning, racing a downhill and super-G in Bormio, Italy. On Tuesday, Travis Ganong had the top performance, placing eighth. In the super-G, Ryan Cochran-Siegle was 0.05 seconds off of the podium in fourth place to lead the U.S.
Both the men and women will travel to Zagreb, Croatia, Jan. 4-5 for World Cup slalom events on alternating days.