mikaela shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin beaten in first slalom of Olympic season (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin acknowledged it after taking second in the season-opening slalom Saturday. The American has a rival in the discipline that she has dominated the last five years.

Slovakian Petra Vlhova edged Shiffrin for the second straight World Cup slalom, this time overcoming a first-run deficit to win by one tenth of a second in Levi, Finland.

Shiffrin, the reigning Olympic, world and World Cup champion in slalom, relinquished a .21 lead over Vlhova from the morning run.

Swiss Wendy Holdener was third, a distant 1.35 seconds back. Full results are here.

Shiffrin was aiming for her 27th World Cup slalom win and 32nd overall. Instead, Vlhova, who is 22 like Shiffrin, won her third career World Cup race, all slaloms.

“Mikaela, she’s always fast, but now I am fast,” said Vlhova, who was given a reindeer for the World Cup victory.

Vlhova also beat Shiffrin at the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colo., last season, after Shiffrin had already clinched her first World Cup overall title and her fourth World Cup slalom season title in five years.

Shiffrin and Vlhova trained together this week.

“In all honesty, Petra skis like Mikaela more than Mikaela skis like Mikaela,” Shiffrin’s mom, Eileen, said, according to the Denver Post. “Their coaches are always on the hill, videoing Mikaela. I think Petra is going to give Mikaela a real run for her money.”

Shiffrin said she felt OK on Saturday, bur her timing was off on essential turns.

“I expect that it’s going to be a really cool fight with [Vlhova] this year,” Shiffrin said.

Shiffrin’s slalom dominance was on full display the last three seasons. At one point, she had a streak of seven straight World Cup slalom wins and victories in 15 straight slaloms that she started overall.

She missed five World Cup slaloms in the 2015-16 season due to a knee injury.

The men race a slalom in Levi on Sunday. A broadcast schedule is here.

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MORE: Marcel Hirscher sets return from broken ankle

Levi Women’s Slalom
1. Petra Vlhova (SVK) — 1:49.98
2. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — +.10
3. Wendy Holdener (SUI) — +1.35
21. Resi Stiegler (USA) — +4.15

Mikaela Shiffrin bumped off podium in Soelden; Lindsey Vonn struggles

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Mikaela Shiffrin opened the Olympic season with a rare costly mistake, getting bounced off her line and finishing fifth in a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Saturday.

Lindsey Vonn was 34th and 3.31 seconds behind in the first run, where the top 30 advanced to a second run. Giant slalom is not one of her best disciplines.

German Viktoria Rebensburg, the 2010 Olympic GS champ, won by .14 of a second over France’s Tessa Worley after two runs. Italy’s Manuela Moelgg was third.

Shiffrin was .74 back in fifth, losing about one second in the first half of her second run, which included going well wide of that one gate. Shiffrin was second-fastest in the opening run, .12 behind Moelgg.

Full results are here.

“The biggest competition I have right now is with myself,” Shiffrin said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “I feel really good with where my GS is right now. I’m disappointed because I didn’t make turns today like I know I can.”

Shiffrin, 22 and fifth in the Sochi Olympic GS, improved to become the world’s second-best GS skier last season behind Worley.

Vonn last raced giant slalom Jan. 30, 2016 and last won a GS on Dec. 12, 2015, her only finish better than fifth in a GS since January 2013.

She does hope to race GS in PyeongChang, where she should be a medal favorite in downhill and super-G.

“I just didn’t push myself enough. I was kind of too conservative where I could have let it go. But it was nice to get started,” Vonn said, according to USA Today. “I was wishing to get some points [by finishing in the top 30], but that’s life.”

Lara Gut (2016 World Cup overall champion) and Sofia Goggia (third in 2017 World Cup overall) skied out in the first run Saturday.

The start was moved down due to high winds.

Olympic champion Ted Ligety headlines the men’s field racing Soelden on Sunday. An Alpine broadcast schedule is here.

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MORE: Vonn: Women viewed as ‘second-rate’ on World Cup

Soelden Women’s Giant Slalom
1. Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) — 1:55.20
2. Tessa Worley (FRA) — +.14
3. Manuela Moelgg (ITA) — +.53
5. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — +.74
34. Lindsey Vonn (USA)
42. Megan McJames (USA)
47. Foreste Peterson (USA)

Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn top women’s Alpine skiing season storylines

Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin
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Three storylines for the Olympic women’s Alpine skiing season ahead of Saturday’s World Cup opener in Soelden, Austria …

1. Second time would be sweeter for Mikaela Shiffrin

Shiffrin certainly deserved last year’s World Cup overall title, awarded to the skier who accumulates the most points across all disciplines, but she was quoted in Austrian media this month intimating that it wasn’t wholly fulfilling.

That’s because the previous overall winners — Swiss Lara Gut, Austrian Anna VeithLindsey Vonn and Slovenian Tina Maze — all raced partial seasons, largely due to injuries. In Maze’s case, it was a single farewell race into retirement.

Shiffrin’s hope for stronger competition this season is already dented. Gut and Veith are sitting out Saturday’s opener. They’re targeting returns from last winter’s knee surgeries in late November or early December.

(Update: Gut surprisingly announced she will race Saturday in an early return from tearing an ACL and suffering meniscus damage in February.)

Vonn plans to race in October for the first time in five years, but she downplayed overall title aspirations in recent seasons. The 33-year-old emphasized quality over quantity in limiting her race schedule, chasing the career World Cup wins record by focusing on downhills and super-Gs.

Then on Sunday, Slovenian Ilka Stuhec, the surprise runner-up to Shiffrin last season, suffered a torn ACL that will likely keep her out the entire year.

Italian Sofia Goggia, who made her first World Cup podium last season (and then 12 more), may be the most promising challenger.

MORE: Shiffrin chases higher goals as second Olympics approach

2. Lindsey Vonn’s eight-year wait

Incredibly after all of her injuries, Vonn is arguably the Olympic downhill favorite at the moment with world downhill champ Stuhec’s ACL tear.

This season is all about the Olympics for Vonn, who spent the previous two seasons chasing (when healthy) something else — the Word Cup wins record.

She managed to reach 77, nine shy of retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s total. Vonn is capable of breaking the record this season (she won nine races in 2015-16 and eight in 2014-15), but that would be cake icing at this point. She plans to go after Stenmark in 2018-19.

Vonn can set a bunch of age records this season, including oldest female World Cup downhill race winner and oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist.

But most of all she will be motivated by having to watch the Sochi Games on TV, unable to defend her emotional downhill title from 2010.

MORE: Vonn’s bid to race men delayed

3. Comebacks, comebacks, comebacks

Other than Shiffrin and Vonn, just about every big name is a question mark because of major injuries. We mentioned Gut and Veith, but also Julia Mancuso.

Mancuso, who owns four Olympic medals, last raced March 2015. She missed the last two seasons due to hip problems but is expected to finally return the first week of December.

Mancuso has an acumen for turning it on for the Olympics — she made the podium in 2006, 2010 and 2014 with scant World Cup success those seasons.

Shiffrin’s closest slalom challenger last season — Slovak Veronika Velez Zuzulova — underwent right knee surgery in September that could keep the 33-year-old out until December.

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MORE: Mancuso narrows focus in comeback