Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova built a huge first-run lead over Edwards’ Mikaela Shiffrin on Saturday in a World Cup slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, then actually expanded that lead for a dominant 1.31-second victory over the greatest women’s slalom skier of all time.
Vlhova had an astounding 1.16-second lead after the first run. She added another .15 seconds to that margin in the second run, relegating Shiffrin to second place in a race she’s won numerous times, including last season.
Shiffrin, the all-time record-holder in slalom victories with 43 was seeking to defend her Snow Queen title and pick up what would have been her fifth win of the season and 65th of her astounding career. Those stats will have to wait.
Third-place finisher Katharina Liensberger of Austria was another two-plus seconds behind Shiffrin and a mindboggling 3.49 seconds behind Vlhova.
Shiffrin had been on a nearly year-long winning streak in slalom and went into Saturday’s night race a heavy favorite to extend that run. Shiffrin had won six straight slalom races.
Vlhova had other ideas. She beat Shiffrin by the biggest margin in any race Shiffrin finished since 2014.
“I knew that Miki [Shiffrin], she goes really fast, so what I have to do now, if I want to win, I have to risk all the time,” Vlhova said, according to NBC’s OlympicTalk.
A day after posting a video of a fall in training and a slight hip injury, Shiffrin made a key mistake in the first run and had to put her hand on the snow to regain her balance. That cost her nearly a second of time. But Vlhova also had the best second run.
Here’s the press release from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team:
Under a vibrant setting sun in the capital city of Croatia, Mikaela Shiffrin took yet another FIS Ski World Cup podium, finishing second in the Zagreb night slalom.
Petra Vlhova of Slovakia had a banner day, winning her sixth World Cup slalom and the Zagreb Snow Queen Trophy. Katharina Liensberger of Austria took third, 3.49 seconds off the pace.
The day started off with a challenge for Mikaela, who had a bobble on her first run that set her back more than a second behind Petra. But Mikaela put the hammer down second run and came out over two seconds ahead to take the lead. She wondered if it could be enough to secure the win, but Petra’s strength, aggression and perfect timing triumphed, as she built on her first-run advantage and smoked the field, taking the overall win by 1.31 seconds.
While Petra’s victory broke Mikaela’s nearly year-long slalom win streak, Mikaela could only praise Petra’s performance and talked of her excitement about the competition. “She’s been building and building and getting better and stronger and her discipline is amazing,” said Mikaela. “I’ve said from the beginning that if she’s really on, I have to be skiing my best, perfect, fastest skiing in order to stay ahead of her. Today I was as strong as I could be—especially in the second run—but it wasn’t strong enough. I could see the difference.”
While the crowd often expects Mikaela to win all slalom World Cups, Mikaela reminded her fans that she never presumes first place. “I’m never going to a race expecting that I’m going to win—especially when I have competitors like Petra,” she said. “She doesn’t win these races from luck. She wins because she’s working really hard.”
Mikaela and Petra have combined to win the last 24 World Cup slaloms—19 for Mikaela and five for Petra. And although she was bummed to not take the win, Mikaela was excited about how she and Petra are elevating slalom skiing. “This is how competition is supposed to be,” said Mikaela. “She’s pushing the limits, so then I’m pushing the limits and it’s raising the level of slalom skiing. That’s really cool to be a part of.”
Paula Moltzan also started on Saturday, but she hit a rut off-balanced and got thrown off, DNFing. She is OK, and was able to get up and ski away. Mikaela still holds on to the overall World Cup with a 313-point lead over Petra and she also holds a 120-point lead over Petra in the race to the slalom title.
Next up, the men race the Zagreb night slalom on Sunday. The women head to Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria for a downhill and alpine combined beginning Saturday. Mikaela has yet to confirm whether or not she will participate in Altenmarkt-Zuachensee.
WORLD CUP STANDINGS