Mikaela Shiffrin was beaten in back-to-back World Cup slaloms for the first time since 2017, relegated by Slovakian Petra Vlhova for a second straight time in Flachau, Austria, on Tuesday.
Vlhova, the giant slalom world champion, distanced third-place Shiffrin by .43 of a second combining times from two runs under the lights. Vlhova led by six tenths over Shiffrin after the first run.
Swede Anna Swenn-Larsson passed Shiffrin in the second run to finish runner-up, one tenth behind Vlhova. Shiffrin’s streak of 15 straight slaloms finishing first or second ends. Full results are here.
“I am happy to be on the podium again. I am disappointed with my skiing. But that’s ski racing,” Shiffrin said, according to The Associated Press. “Her [Vlhova’s] skiing is the best.”
It came 10 days after Vlhova beat Shiffrin by 1.31 seconds in a slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, marking the largest margin of victory by anyone over Shiffrin in a slalom since 2014 (excluding Shiffrin DNFs).
“The way I’ve been on top with my skiing for all these years is because I did more work, harder work and stronger work than everyone else,” Shiffrin said, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “I worked smarter. I could come to the races and I had to push, I knew that, but I worked hard enough that confidence wasn’t a factor. I could ski even when I wasn’t confident, and my good skiing would be enough. Right now, it’s difficult to balance everything — to balance what I want to accomplish in the sport with everything and still be able to stay on top going against girls who are working really hard.”
Vlhova previously handed Shiffrin back-to-back slalom defeats in the last race of the 2016-17 season and the first race of the 2017-18 season. After that, Shiffrin reeled off wins in 18 of 20 traditional World Cup slaloms before Vlhova’s latest repeat victories.
The last time Shiffrin lost consecutive slaloms in one season was late 2014, soon after which her coach of four years, Roland Pfeifer, was reassigned. The last time she finished a slalom and was outside the top two was in Flachau three years ago.
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 25 World Cup slaloms (19 for Shiffrin, six for Vlhova). Vlhova’s staff has been known to film Shiffrin’s training sessions.
“I know that she is angry because she wants to always win,” Vlhova said of Shiffrin, who hugged the Slovakian in congratulations immediately after Tuesday’s race and at the trophy presentation. “It’s good to have Miki close to me because she push me to more than maybe I have inside. I think it’s very important for skiing, for our sport, to have to girls like this.
“I want to have a friend relationship with her, but we can’t because we are on the top, and everybody wants to win.”
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.
In Tuesday’s post-race press conference, Shiffrin first wanted to be clear that her coach Mike Day, who set the second-run course, did not align the gates to try and slow down Vlhova.
“Maybe the most important thing I wanted to say tonight is we don’t do that,” she said. “We don’t play those games. I think it’s bad karma. It’s a testament to Petra’s skiing that you can’t set a course against her right now because her skiing is the best.”
Shiffrin remains tied with Lindsey Vonn for the most World Cup wins in one discipline for a woman. Shiffrin has 43 slaloms, and the retired Vonn took 43 downhills.
The next World Cup slalom is Feb. 16 in Maribor, Slovenia. There are four World Cup slaloms left this season. Shiffrin leads the slalom season standings by 80 points, eyeing her seventh crystal globe for the discipline. If Vlhova wins the last four slaloms, with Shiffrin finishing second each time, Vlhova would take the title in a tiebreaker.
The women’s World Cup moves to Sestriere, Italy, for a giant slalom and parallel giant slalom on Saturday (8:05 a.m. ET) and Sunday (5:45 a.m.) on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.
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