Veronika Velez Zuzulova

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Veronika Velez Zuzulova, top Mikaela Shiffrin rival, needs surgery

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One of Mikaela Shiffrin‘s top rivals will miss the start of the Alpine skiing season

Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova, second to Shiffrin in last season’s slalom standings, is undergoing right knee surgery that will keep her out at least two months, according to her social media.

Velez Zuzulova’s unspecified injury could have otherwise kept her out six to eight months (the Olympics are in five months) if she had not chosen this particular surgery, according to the post.

Velez Zuzulova is sure to miss the first slalom of the World Cup season is Levi, Finland, on Nov. 11. She could also miss the second slalom in Killington, Vt., on Nov. 26.

Velez Zuzulova, 33, revealed last week that she hurt her knee in preseason training in Argentina.

She won three World Cup slaloms between the last two seasons. Only Shiffrin, with 12 victories, has more.

Velez Zuzulova finished second in the World Cup slalom season standings in 2016 (to Swede Frida Hansdotter; Shiffrin missed much of the season with a knee injury) and in 2017 (to Shiffrin, a massive 275 points behind).

Velez Zuzulova, an Olympian in 2002, 2006 and 2010, missed the 2014 Sochi Winter Games after tearing her left ACL in October 2013.

Shiffrin’s biggest slalom rivals to start the season should be world silver medalist Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, plus another Slovakian, Petra Vlhova, and Hansdotter.

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MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin’s best season also brought the most anxiety

Top Mikaela Shiffrin rival on crutches

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Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova, the second-best slalom skier to Mikaela Shiffrin last season, is on crutches one month before the start of the Olympic season.

She is out indefinitely with a knee injury while in Argentina for training on Sunday, according to Slovakian media. The Slovakian Ski Association has not responded to a request for comment.

Zuzulova, 33, won three World Cup slaloms between the last two seasons. Only Shiffrin, with 12 victories, has more.

Zuzulova finished second in the World Cup slalom season standings in 2016 (to Swede Frida Hansdotter; Shiffrin missed much of the season with a knee injury) and in 2017 (to Shiffrin, a massive 275 points behind).

Zuzulova, an Olympian in 2002, 2006 and 2010, missed the 2014 Sochi Winter Games after tearing her left ACL in October 2013.

The first World Cup slalom this season is Nov. 12 in Levi, Finland.

If Zuzulova is out, Shiffrin’s biggest rivals should be world silver medalist Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, plus another Slovakian, Petra Vlhova, and Hansdotter.

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MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin’s best season also brought the most anxiety

Mikaela Shiffrin wins 6th slalom this season in Stockholm night event

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Mikaela Shiffrin has all but wrapped up her fourth World Cup season slalom title. And she just moved closer to what could be her first World Cup overall title.

Shiffrin won her sixth slalom in eight races this season, prevailing in a bracket-style, head-to-head event in Stockholm on Tuesday night.

Shiffrin beat her top slalom rival, Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova, by .44 of a second in the head-to-head final.

Full results are here.

Shiffrin can clinch her fourth World Cup slalom season title by finishing third or better in the next World Cup slalom in Squaw Valley, Calif., on March 11.

Shiffrin also moved 180 points clear in the standings for the World Cup overall title through 26 of 37 races this season. She leads defending champion Lara Gut in a battle that could go all the way to the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., in March.

Shiffrin could become the first third U.S. woman to take a World Cup overall title, joining Tamara McKinney and Lindsey Vonn.

On Tuesday, she became the fourth U.S. skier to win six races in one World Cup season in one discipline, joining Picabo Street (1995, downhill), Ted Ligety (2013, giant slalom) and Vonn (2010, downhill). No American has won seven races in one discipline, and the last skier from any nation to do so was Austrian slalom ace Marlies Schild in 2007.

Earlier in the Stockholm event, Shiffrin easily beat France’s Adeline Baud Mugnier in the round of 16, Canada’s Marie-Michele Gagnon in the quarterfinals and Swede Frida Hansdotter in the semifinals.

Stockholm marked the final World Cup race before the World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, from Feb. 7-19.

MORE: Vonn: Record more important than Olympic gold