Mikaela Shiffrin struggled in her specialty, finishing 11th in the first World Cup slalom of the season in Levi, Finland, on Saturday.
Slovenian Tina Maze won with a two-run time of 1 minute, 55.15 seconds, over Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter and Austria’s Kathrin Zettel. Shiffrin was 2.07 seconds slower than Maze, a startling result.
“It was like I was sleeping,” said Shiffrin, who arrived in Levi late, not until Thursday due to travel delay, according to Ski Racing magazine. “I took the competition for granted a little bit. … Something that always worked for me was to feel like the underdog and come from behind. Even if I was the favorite to win, I always come into races and do my best to ski my very fastest. Not ski for the win, ski for my fastest skiing. … I maybe lost sight of that a little bit today.”
Shiffrin, who in Sochi became the youngest Olympic slalom champion ever, won four of the final five World Cup slaloms last season. This year, she won her first career World Cup giant slalom race in the season opener in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 25.
The 19-year-old clearly had momentum and set her sights on a first World Cup super-G start in December.
Not so fast. Shiffrin’s slalom dominance was nowhere to be found inside the Arctic Circle on Saturday, a venue where she prevailed by 1.06 seconds in 2013 and won a reindeer she named Rudolph. (Maze named her reindeer Victor on Saturday)
Shiffrin, who led after the first run of the previous six World Cup slaloms, was 1.71 seconds behind Maze and in 14th place after a foggy first run Saturday. The 1.71-second deficit was her largest since Nov. 25, 2012. She didn’t make any major mistakes, but lost a large chunk of time on the steep part of the course.
Shiffrin was aiming for her 10th World Cup slalom win, which would have broken her tie for the most by an American with Tamara McKinney and Phil Mahre.
The women’s World Cup season continues with a giant slalom and slalom in Aspen, Colo., on Thanksgiving weekend.
“I know I my skiing’s there,” Shiffrin said. “I’m definitely not psyched, but I’m also going to stay positive, because that’s my bread and butter.”