Mikaela Shiffrin finished second on her 26th birthday in the season’s penultimate slalom that complicated the title picture going into next week’s World Cup Finals.
Shiffrin, bidding for her 70th World Cup win, had the fastest first run but was denied victory by world champion Katharina Liensberger, who became the first Austrian woman to win a World Cup since Feb. 29, 2020.
Liensberger prevailed by .72 of a second, making up a deficit of .19 from the first run, to end a six-and-a-half-year drought between World Cup slalom victories for Austrian women. It also ensured Austrian women don’t go winless in a season (across all disciplines) for the first time in World Cup history (since 1967).
“I was pushing, and I think Liensberger was on another level,” Shiffrin said.
Another significant result in Are, Sweden: Slovakian Petra Vlhova, who could have clinched the World Cup slalom season title on Saturday, finished eighth, her worst placement since 2019, after nearly skiing out in the first run.
She needed an acrobatic save between the fifth and sixth gates to stay on course and ended up 27th in the first run, 2.95 seconds behind Shiffrin.
Vlhova had the fastest second run to move up 19 spots.
“A lot of risk because I was thinking, OK, nothing to lose,” Vlhova said on ORF.
Paula Moltzan was fifth, the best World Cup slalom result for an American woman other than Shiffrin since 2012.
Vlhova’s slalom standings lead was cut from 85 points over Shiffrin to 22 points over Liensberger. Shiffrin is now 37 points behind going into the last slalom at the World Cup Finals next Saturday in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
A race winner gets 100 points, second place gets 80 and third place gets 60 on a scale that descends further down the standings. Vlhova will win the crystal globe if she finishes first or second in the last race. If Shiffrin wins the race, she needs somebody other than Vlhova to finish second.
“The only thing you can really expect is it should be an exciting show,” Shiffrin said. “I don’t know how it’s going to turn out.
“Anything is possible in Finals. I’m not totally out of the fight, which, after yesterday, is a little bit of a surprise.”
She owns six World Cup slalom season titles and has never lost it when doing a full season of racing since her breakout at age 17 in 2012-13.
“On paper, this is, I don’t know, my least successful season, but it’s still been quite incredible,” said Shiffrin, who has three wins and eight podiums, plus four world championships medals this winter after going 300 days between racing following her father’s death and an autumn back injury. “I can be happy with that but also not totally satisfied.
Vlhova increased her lead in the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, to 126 points over Swiss speed skier Lara Gut-Behrami, who doesn’t race slaloms. That will also be decided at next week’s World Cup Finals, which are made up of one downhill, one super-G, one giant slalom and one slalom.
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