Petra Vlhova

Shiffrin’s slalom streak is snapped at Flachau World Cup

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After finishing second to American Mikaela Shiffrin in the first five World Cup slaloms of the season, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova finally made her breakthrough at today’s World Cup stop in Flachau, Austria. Competing under the lights and amid heavy snowfall, Shiffrin led the field by 0.27 seconds after the first run (with Vlhova sitting in third, 0.31 seconds back). But Vlhova attacked the course in the second run, going on to finish 0.15 seconds ahead of Shiffrin. Austria’s Katharina Liensberger placed third, marking the 21-year-old’s first-ever World Cup podium finish. (Anna Swenn Larsson of Sweden initially seemed to have claimed the final spot on the podium, but she was later disqualified for not correctly passing through one of the gates.)

The other American competing in Flachau, Paula Moltzan, finished 12th, marking her best-ever World Cup finish. Moltzan was in 27th place after the first run, but she skied the second-fastest time (behind only Vlhova) in the second run to catapult herself up the standings. Full results are here.

It has been nearly two years since a woman other than Vlhova or Shiffrin stood atop a women’s World Cup slalom podium. Sweden’s Frida Handotter won the Flachau slalom on January 10, 2017, but in the 17 World Cup slaloms since, Shiffrin has notched 13 victories, while Vlhova has won four.

Vlhova is one of the only athletes who has seriously challenged Shiffrin in recent years. The two athletes are close in age (Shiffrin is exactly three months older). At the start of the 2017-18 season, it seemed like a real slalom rivalry was developing after Vlhova outpaced Shiffrin by 0.10 seconds at the World Cup in Levi, Finland. But then Shiffrin finished ahead of Vlhova at the Killington World Cup. And then Shiffrin won again, and again, and again, all while Vlhova’s slalom results slowed.

Vlhova has been gaining on Shiffrin since the start of the current season and she even managed to outpace the American slalom star at the city event in Oslo earlier this month. But today’s win was even sweeter. “This is my best day ever.” Vlhova said in her post-race FIS interview. “Finally I beat Mikaela, but she’s also really strong and I have big respect [for her].”

A few minutes later, Shiffrin told the crowd of cheering fans, “It’s motivation for me so we’ll see you in Maribor,” a reference to the next slalom on the World Cup calendar, which is scheduled for February 2.

Shiffrin entered Flachau having won the last seven World Cup slaloms (a streak that in March 2018 in Ofterschwang, Germany). Today’s race offered her a chance to tie the women’s World Cup record for most consecutive slalom victories (eight), which was set by Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider in 1989 and equaled by Croatia’s Janica Kostelic in 2001, but her second-place finish means it will be at least another year before she another shot at that specific record.

In December, Shiffrin broke Austrian Marlies Schild’s record for most career World Cup slalom wins by a woman. Despite her second-place finish today, Shiffrin still has the opportunity to tie the overall record for most World Cup slalom wins (by a man or woman) before the end of the season. The current record (40) is held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark, who competed in the 1970s and 80s. Shiffrin currently owns 37 career World Cup slalom wins, with three more races scheduled this season.

Mikaela Shiffrin wins 50th World Cup, youngest to hit milestone

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Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest Alpine skier to reach 50 World Cup wins and tied a childhood idol for the career slalom victories record, prevailing in Courchevel, France on Saturday.

Shiffrin won for the second straight day, for her fifth straight start and for the 14th time in 2018, extending her female World Cup record for one year.

She beat Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova by .29 of a second over two runs, making up a .04 deficit on the last split, 16 seconds before the finish. Full results are here.

A day after yelling at the finish line, out of character, Shiffrin was her quieter self on Saturday with a pair of subdued arm pumps while breathing heavily.

“Physically, my energy is good,” Shiffrin, who overcame a back injury and illness in recent weeks, said after having the fastest first run by .04 over Vlhova, “but mentally waking up is a struggle.”

The 23-year-old supplanted all-time wins leader Ingemar Stenmark as the quickest to 50 victories by age (by two months). However, Stenmark reached 50 wins in 100 starts, while Shiffrin did it in 142 starts. Lindsey Vonn did it in 297, according to Olympic historian Bill Mallon of the OlyMADMen.

“I was trying as hard as I could not to focus on [the 50 milestone] today because it’s so distracting to think about those numbers,” Shiffrin said. “There’s, like, a list of statistics and records that happened today, and I don’t even know what they are. … I’m not chasing these victories. I’m skiing freely.”

It’s likely Shiffrin gets to 60 World Cup wins before February’s world championships. The next five races through Jan. 8 are all giant slaloms or slaloms, Shiffrin’s specialties.

“I think she will beat all the records that you can beat,” said Swede Frida Hansdotter, who took slalom gold in PyeongChang (when Shiffrin was shockingly fourth) and was third on Saturday.

Shiffrin now has 35 slalom wins, matching retired Austrian Marlies Schild for the female record in that discipline. Shiffrin, who has 39 slalom wins if including head-to-head parallel events, still defers to Schild as the greatest female slalom skier ever.

“She was the one who made it possible for me to ski slalom the way that I do,” said Shiffrin, who as a teen studied video of Schild’s technique and said last month that she still watches her old runs. “So I can’t ever feel like, oh yeah, I took that record from her.”

The World Cup moves to Semmering, Austria, for a giant slalom and slalom next weekend, streaming live on NBC Sports Gold.

“I’m going to go hibernate for the next four days,” Shiffrin joked.

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VIDEO: Swiss Olympian flown to hospital after World Cup downhill crash

Watch Mikaela Shiffrin take on new rival this weekend

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Just as the Olympic season is starting, Mikaela Shiffrin faces maybe her toughest challenge yet in the slalom.

Shiffrin, the reigning Olympic, world and World Cup champion in the discipline, goes into this weekend’s World Cup races in Killington, Vt., having taken second in the last two slaloms behind emerging Slovakian Petra Vlhova.

Sunday’s slalom in Killington, following a giant slalom on Saturday, could determine in the eyes of many the Olympic slalom favorite.

The broadcast schedule:

  • Giant Slalom first run – Saturday, 9:45am (Stream here)
  • Giant Slalom second run – Saturday, 12:30pm (Olympic Channel) (Stream here)
  • Slalom first run – Sunday, 9:45am (Stream here)
  • Slalom first run – Sunday, 1 pm (NBC) (Stream here)

Shiffrin, who is 22 like Vlhova, is the reigning World Cup overall champion, an award that honors the best skier across all disciplines over the course of a season.

It was a milestone in the young racer’s career, but as her all-around skills improved, her grip on her signature slalom is no longer iron clad.

Vlhova beat Shiffrin at the World Cup Finals in March in Aspen, Colo., and at this season’s opening slalom in Finland two weeks ago.

“In all honesty, Petra skis like Mikaela more than Mikaela skis like Mikaela,” Shiffrin’s mom, Eileen, said before the Finland race, according to the Denver Post. “Their coaches are always on the hill, videoing Mikaela. I think Petra is going to give Mikaela a real run for her money.”

It marked the first time since December 2013 that another woman won consecutive World Cup slaloms over fields that included Shiffrin. It was Marlies Schild four years ago, just before the Austrian veteran ceded her dominance to Shiffrin going into the Sochi Olympics.

“Mikaela, she’s always fast, but now I am fast,” Vlhova said after her win two weeks ago.

First is Saturday’s giant slalom, where Vlhova is not expected to factor into the podium race.

Shiffrin ranked second in the world in GS last season, continuing a steady rise since placing fifth in Sochi.

Minute Frenchwoman Tessa Worley dominated the GS last season, taking the World Cup and world championships titles, including a win in Killington.

At this season’s opening giant slalom in October, Shiffrin was in second place after the first run but got bumped off her line in the second run and ended up fifth.

Worley ended up second behind 2010 Olympic GS champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany.

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