Petra Vlhova

Mikaela Shiffrin among favorites eliminated early in parallel giant slalom

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Mikaela Shiffrin was upset in the round of 16 of the first World Cup parallel giant slalom by unheralded Frenchwoman Clara Direz, who went on to earn her first win on Sunday.

Shiffrin had the fastest qualifying time but was bounced in the second round of head-to-head racing in Sestriere by Direz. Direz, 24, came into the day with a best career finish of seventh.

Direz was 16th-fastest in qualifying, 1.02 seconds behind Shiffrin combining times from two runs. Direz edged Shiffrin by .13 in their head-to-head run. Shiffrin appeared to be at a disadvantage being put on the red course, which produced just three winners among 20 one-run matchups.

“It is fun; I think I like the parallel GS actually more than the parallel slalom, but it’s a little bit difficult,” Shiffrin said. “I think there’s still a lot of work we have to do, and FIS [the International Ski Federation] has to do to really make the race as even as it can be because for sure you can see, there’s always a faster course. But today it’s like they’re not even the same course at all. Especially in the last four, five gates on the blue course, you can even see just looking up the hill that it’s straighter than the red course.

“Today I would say it’s a day where the luck [of which course you draw randomly] really plays a role.”

Direz eventually beat Austrian Elisa Moerzinger in the final. Direz was on the blue course for three of her four one-run rounds. Full results are here.

Higher-ranked racers used to be have their choice of courses in the parallel format.

“Maybe that wasn’t fair, either, but I think there must be a way to make it something that is more even, but at the same time, yeah, I don’t really have the answers on how to do that, either,” Shiffrin said. “It’s still in its infancy, this event.”

Shiffrin has a track record of success in parallel slaloms and similar city events, winning five of her last six starts. But the parallel GS proved problematic for the world’s best in slalom.

Swiss Wendy Holdener and Slovakian Petra Vlhova were also eliminated before the quarterfinals after being second- and third-fastest in qualifying. Holdener was also on the red course. Vlhova lost in the round of 32, when skiers were taking runs on both the blue and red courses.

Sestriere marked the last weekend of technical races (slaloms/giant slaloms) until mid-February. The next three weekends feature downhills and super-Gs. Shiffrin is expected to travel to Bansko, Bulgaria, for the first set on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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Mikaela Shiffrin edged again by Petra Vlhova in Flachau slalom

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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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MORE: Shiffrin among 10 dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s decade