Mikaela Shiffrin wins season-opening World Cup slalom for her 75th career victory
Defending overall crystal globe winner opens 2022-23 season with 5th career win in Levi, ending rival Vlhova's 4-race win streak on Finnish soil
The sun may have been setting at 2:20 p.m. in Levi, Finland, on Saturday as athletes pulled into the starting gate for their second runs, but for Mikaela Shiffrin, it was about to become a beautiful metaphorical sunrise on her 12th full World Cup season. The 27-year-old claimed her 48th World Cup slalom victory with a combined time of 1 minute, 51.25 seconds, edging out Sweden’s Anna Svenn-Larsson (1:51.41) and five-time Levi winner Petra Vlhova (1:51.45).
“Yeah this is amazing,” Shiffrin said to FIS reporters after, quickly turning to praise her teammate Ava Sunshine Jemison, who was sitting next to her. Jemison, the World Junior silver medalist last year in the super-G and a Ski and Snowboard Club Vail alumna, finished 21st in her World Cup debut.
“Really strong skiing, really good final in that last bit of the pitch — yeah, super cool,” Shiffrin said.
It was the 48th World Cup slalom victory for Shiffrin and her 67th slalom podium — both records. The latter is the most women’s World Cup podiums in a single discipline, a mark she had held with Lindsey Vonn (66, downhill).
The Edwards superstar came in having won the Levi slalom four times (2013, 2016, 2018, 2019) and placed on the podium five other times — including two second-place finishes to Vlhova last November.
Racing on compact snow under cloudy skies, with the temperature around -8 degrees Celsius at the start, Germany’s Lena Duerr (54.48) set the standard in the first run, with Swenn-Larsson (54.93) in second. Shiffrin and Vlhova were neck and neck in third and fourth, respectively, with the American (55.03) holding a two-hundredths of a second advantage over the 27-year-old from Slovakia (55.05).
In the final run, Katharina Liensberger, the slalom crystal globe winner in 2020-21, moved up from 16th into the top five thanks to a 56.89 in her second, a time that ended up being the field’s fourth-fastest second run.
Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, who came into the race having recorded 29 World Cup podium finishes in the women’s slalom without a win (14 times second and 15 times third) — the most ever by an Alpine skier in a single discipline, rocketed into first with five athletes remaining.
Vlhova, racing fourth-to-last, blasted the Levi Black’s 180-meter drop slope, blazing to the finish in 56.40 to go into first. Next up was Shiffrin.
The American trailed Vlhova by 0.14 on the first section and 0.12 on the second. She skied smoothly through the steep section, however, which proved pivotal. When she hit the third checkpoint, she held a 0.28-second advantage. At the finish, she was up 0.20, having clocked in at 56.22, the fastest second run of the day.
Svenn-Larrson wasn’t able to manage the steep section with Shiffrin’s poise, and though the Swede held small advantages at the top of the hill, ultimately finished 0.16 seconds behind the American in second.
Duerr had a lot of time to work with, holding a 0.55 lead from the first run. The pressure of duplicating Shiffrin’s second run seemed evident, however, particularly in the latter stages of the course, where the German lost huge chunks of time. She ended up finishing in 57.52, the 14th-fastest second run of the day, to place fourth overall.
Fellow Americans Paula Moltzan and A.J. Hurt did not finish the first run, while Katie Hensien (57.37, 38th) and Nina O’Brien (57.48, 42nd) failed to finish in the top 30 and qualify for a second.
At the finish line, FIS reporters asked Jemison if she was going to help Shiffrin name her reindeer, the customary winner’s prize at the Finnish event.
“We were thinking Angelina Jolie,” Jemison remarked.
“Oh, yep, that’s it!” Shiffrin laughed as the pair’s brief interview concluded.
Vlhova will have to wait until tomorrow to go for a sixth win on Finnish soil.
“Congratulations to the girls; it was good fighting and looking forward to racing tomorrow,” she said in the post-race interview. “I will try to do everything tomorrow to get a sixth.”
The event’s second slalom starts at 2 a.m. MST on Sunday, with the second run going off at 5 a.m. MST; both are being streamed on SkiAndSnowboard.live.
“I think there’s like five or six girls who could take it, so it’s good fighting and I’m happy to be here today,” Shiffrin said. “Tomorrow, we just go again.”
This story is from VailDaily.com.
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