Mikaela Shiffrin overcame strong winds, nerves and a testy gate in her second run to claim the first World Cup slalom of the season, her 33rd career slalom victory and her third reindeer in Levi, Finland on Saturday.
Shiffrin prevailed by .58 of a second over Slovakian Petra Vlhova after the race was delayed 45 minutes and the start moved down due to winds, a much more common alteration in speed events than slalom. She had the fastest first run by .14 over surprise Olympic gold medalist Frida Hansdotter of Sweden.
“I had a little bit of a scary moment on the top of the pitch but kept fighting,” Shiffrin said of her second run, where she was clearly late on one early gate. “It’s the first race of the season, so there’s some nerves, there’s some excitement. Nobody knows how fast they are. It’s always a really nice challenge.”
Levi winners receive a reindeer. Shiffrin named her first two Rudolph and Sven from wins in 2013 and 2016. She named her third Mr. Gru, after the “Despicable Me” character,” at a friend’s suggestion.
Shiffrin moved two World Cup slalom wins shy of retired Austrian idol Marlies Schild‘s record. If you include Shiffrin’s three parallel slalom wins, then she broke Schild’s record on Saturday. The American now has 44 World Cup wins overall, two shy of retired Austrian Renate Götschl, who is fourth on the women’s all-time list.
It’s also Shiffrin’s third straight slalom win since shockingly finishing fourth at the Olympics, between her giant slalom gold and super combined silver.
The men race in Levi on Sunday, featuring double Olympic gold medalist Marcel Hirscher, in their season debut. Both runs stream live on NBC Sports Gold at 4:15 and 7 a.m. ET, with Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airing the second run live.
Shiffrin heads to Killington, Vt., next week for a giant slalom and slalom. Lindsey Vonn makes her farewell season debut the following weekend with speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta.
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