Slovakian Petra Vlhova ended Mikaela Shiffrin‘s slalom win streak at just shy of a year, routing Shiffrin by 1.31 seconds under the lights in Zagreb, Croatia.
Shiffrin won the previous six World Cup slaloms dating to February. Vlhova, fastest in both runs Saturday, recorded the the largest margin of victory for anybody over Shiffrin in a slalom since November 2014 (not counting Shiffrin DNFs).
“Some days, I am so-so. With Miki, you have to be always perfect,” Vlhova said. “If I want to win, I have to risk all the time.”
Shiffrin’s deficit after the opening run — 1.16 seconds — marked her largest in a slalom in nearly three years. She lost eight tenths to Vlhova during a section in which she slipped coming off one gate, putting her left hand on the ground to rebalance.
“Even if I had no mistake, I think Petra would have been faster,” Shiffrin said. “The only way I could have won is if she skied out or made some really, really big mistake. … That’s not something special for her. She’s able to do that. It wasn’t like she had the best run of her life. She just skied really well. I think she can do this again and again and again.”
A day earlier, Shiffrin posted video of a rare fall in slalom training that left her with a sore hip. Coach Mike Day said he could count on one hand the number of times he’s seen Shiffrin hit the snow in slalom training, NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said.
Vlhova, who is 24 and three months younger than Shiffrin, has been the American’s only slalom rival the last few years. The duo combined to win the last 24 World Cup slaloms (19 for Shiffrin, five for Vlhova). Vlhova’s staff has been known to film Shiffrin’s training sessions.
Shiffrin’s mom and longtime coach said in 2017 that the four-inches-taller Vlhova “skis like Mikaela more than Mikaela skis like Mikaela,” according to the Denver Post.
“Since Petra has been much stronger these last few years, that definitely brings my motivation to another level,” Shiffrin said Saturday. “They are one of the few teams who have been able to, in a way, outdo what I have been able to accomplish with my team. I have a lot of respect for that.
“If we weren’t competitors, we would be really good friends. But there’s also this side, you have to stay just far enough away that you can keep the fire.”
Vlhova finished a distant second to Shiffrin in last season’s World Cup overall standings, plus won the world championships giant slalom. This season, Shiffrin holds a comfortable 313-point lead in the overall standings over Vlhova through 13 of 39 scheduled races. Each race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale.
Shiffrin remains on 64 career World Cup wins, 18 shy of Lindsey Vonn‘s female record. She also remains tied with Vonn for the most wins for a woman in a single discipline of 43.
The men race in Zagreb on Sunday (11:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold). The women move to Austria for a downhill and combined next weekend. Shiffrin was hopeful to race as of early this week.
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