SCHLADMING, Austria (AP)Mikaela Shiffrin impressed with a come-from-behind win in a night race Tuesday to send a strong signal to her Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova in the last women’s World Cup slalom before the Beijing Olympics.
Racing on the challenging Planai course, the American improved from fifth place, posting the fastest time with an all-attacking run to beat first-run leader Vlhova by 0.15 seconds.
Vlhova has been dominating women’s slalom this season, winning five of the seven races and locking up the season title with two races to spare.
But Shiffrin was back to her best Tuesday, two days after failing to finish the previous slalom.
”It’s such a privilege to race on this slope and all I wanted to do today was earn that, like deserve it,” said Shiffrin, who called the Planai ”an iconic hill.”
The American cried and buried her face on an advertisement banner in the finish area after her leading time still stood after all four racers after her had finished.
”Last time I skied slalom in Schladming was world champs, also emotional,” said the American, referring to the championships in 2013, when she won her first world title as a 17-year-old.
Tuesday’s victory marked Shiffrin’s 47th career slalom win, making her the first skier in World Cup history to win that many races in a single discipline. She previously shared the best mark with Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark, who won 46 giant slalom in the 1970s and 80s.
”It’s going to take a little while to sink in. It’s been many years of work to get to that number. Tonight I just want to enjoy how I skied the second run,” Shiffrin said.
”It’s just quite special to be sitting here now. It feels like it didn’t happen,” said Shiffrin, who stretched her lead in the overall standings over Vlhova to 55 points.
Her win did not prevent Vlhova from securing the season title in the discipline.
The Slovakian leads Shiffrin by 220 points with just two more World Cup slaloms scheduled after the Olympics.
”To win the globe in the middle of January, that’s amazing,” said Vlhova, who is the defending overall champion but has only competed in slaloms and giant slaloms so far this season.
”It was a main goal for us to win the small globe for slalom. We made it and that is something huge,” she said.
Vlhova won the slalom globe once before, in 2020, after Shiffrin had won it six times in seven years.
”Any time you manage to be a little bit faster than Petra, that’s an incredible job,” Shiffrin said. ”She is so strong, she is making no mistakes. She is skiing slalom the way it’s meant to be skied. It’s really special to watch that.”
The title went to Katharina Liensberger last season. On Tuesday, the Austrian was 0.79 behind in eighth after the first run and ultimately finished 21st after nearly skiing out at the end of her second run.
Germany’s Lena Durr finished 0.93 behind in third for her third podium result of the season.
Shiffrin’s teammate Paula Moltzan was in sixth place after the opening run but straddled a gate in her second. The American has been skiing with the pole taped to her glove since fracturing her left wrist.
Canada’s Ali Nullmeyer and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, who shared the third spot after the opening run, both failed to finish their final runs.
Anna Swenn-Larsson, who finished third in a slalom in Slovenia on Sunday, was among the fastest starters in the first run and led Vlhova by more than two-tenths of a second at the first split before the Swede straddled a gate.
The Planai course is an annual stop on the men’s circuit. The women last raced at the venue during the world championships in 2013.
The race was relocated from nearby Flachau, which has been hit by a recent rise in coronavirus infections.
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