LEVI, Finland (AP)Overall World Cup champion Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States wasted no time in taking control of a new season, sweeping the two season-opening races on Sunday.
Shiffrin posted the fastest time in both runs on the way to her 49th slalom victory, just a day after winning another slalom in Finnish Lapland. No other skier has won more titles in a single competition than the 27-year-old Colorado native.
”Two races in a row like that, it’s a really big effort so I’m just very happy,” Shiffrin said.
She reached her 68th slalom podium, also a record in the women’s competition, one more than compatriot Lindsey Vonn in downhill races.
”I really didn’t expect today,” Shiffrin said. ”I mean even after the first run. I think everyone who is racing is so strong right now and there’s so much, actually, a little bit of luck.”
Shiffrin had a slim 0.07 second first-run lead over Lena Durr, with her rival Vlhova of Slovakia having 0.1 of a second to make up in the second run in third.
The American produced a near perfect second run to hold off the charging Wendy Holdener and beat the Swiss by 0.28 seconds.
”This second run I was pushing as hard as I could push,” she said. ”I made adjustments and it felt like a really good pace and tempo. I was strong and solid everywhere.”
It was the 30th slalom podium for Holdener who still has to win in the discipline. It’s the most World Cup podium finishes without a win in the discipline. Holdener moved up to second from fourth after the second best time in the second run.
”It was really nice today and I hope for more,” she said.
Slalom Olympic champion and last season’s World Cup slalom winner Vlhova was third, matching her result on Saturday, 0.68 behind the leader.
”I’m quite satisfied because two times the third place,” Vlhova said. ”Of course, it could be a little bit better. We know that we have to improve, that we have to be faster so we will try to make it in the next race.”
Shiffrin leads the overall standings with 200 points, with Holdener second 75 points behind and Vlhova another five points back in third.
With 76 World Cup wins, the four-time overall champion is only behind Swedish skiing great Ingemar Stenmark (86) and Vonn (82).
Her next chance to add to her records will come in front of a home crowd.
The women’s World Cup moves to the United States next weekend for a giant slalom on Saturday and another slalom on Sunday in Killington, Vermont.
Shiffrin and Vlhova have dominated the field in this Finnish resort in recent years.
No skier other than Vlhova or Shiffrin has won the traditional season-opening events since then-overall champion Tina Maze triumphed in 2014.
Her sixth victory earned the American a sixth reindeer – a traditional prize the winner receives in Levi where Shiffrin also won in 2013, ’16, ’18 and ’19.
Vlhova has five wins, and a herd of five. The animals remain on a local farm in Finland.
Germany’s Durr also matched her fourth-place finished on Saturday, 0.97 seconds behind Shiffrin with Olympic giant slalom champion Sara Hector of Sweden fifth, 1.42 second back.
Americans Katie Hensien and Ava Sunshine placed 26th and 27th, respectively, with Paula Moltzan crashing in the second run.
A total of 22 skiers didn’t finish the opening run, including Anna Swenn Larsson of Sweden who took second on Saturday and Americans Zoe Zimmermann and Nina O’Brien.
The two slalom events in Levi opened the women’s World Cup season after all four previously scheduled races were cancelled due to warm weather.
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