Velhova beats Shiffrin in first slalom of the World Cup season
fibrous Training became perfect for Petra Vltova on Saturday, defeating Michaela Shiffrin in her first World Cup slalom race of the season.
The Slovak college champ has been training for three weeks in Finnish Lapland and skipped a parallel event in Austria last week to prepare for the first race in her strongest discipline.
The tactics have paid off.
Vlhova set the fastest time in both runs. She initially lost a few hundred hundredths from her .11 skinny edge over Shiffrin but accelerated towards the end of her final run to win the .31 as the duo continued their dominance at the annual event in Finnish Lapland.
Lena finished third with 0.84 points as the German skater’s second podium finish, nearly nine years after winning a city event in Moscow.
None of the skaters other than Flova or Shiffrin have won the season’s inaugural traditional slalom since then-all-around champion Tina Mazi triumphed in 2014. Both Shiffrin and Velhova have won the title four times.
“Here on this kind of slope I love to ski, it’s something special for me,” said Flova, who won two weekly slalom races here last year.
It was Vilova’s 21st career victory and the first since working with her coach, Mauro Bini, who replaced Livio Magoni in the off-season.
Magoni had coached Vlhova for five years and the Italian helped her become the first all-around champion from Slovakia, but he was forced to leave after indifferent remarks about Vlhova’s skating style, according to an Italian newspaper interview.
“I feel happier and more free. I don’t change if I change my coach,” Vlhova said of working with Pini. I’m still the same. Today was just an amazing day for me as well as for my team.”
Flova got her fourth reindeer, a prize for the winner of the race, and she said she would name her Michel.
“That’s my friend’s name. He’s here and he’s the love of my life,” Velhova said.
Having dealt with a back problem that has hampered her training for the past few weeks, Shiffrin has had to wait at least another day in her attempt to match the 32-year-old’s record for most World Cup wins in a single system. Currently, in 45 slalom wins, the American is far behind Swede’s top mark Ingmar Stenmark in giant slalom. Another slalom is scheduled for Sunday.
The three-time American Champion of the Year was generous in the defeat.
“I think it was clear Petra had, of all, better skiing and better consistency,” said Shiffrin, who is bidding for 71st place.
“It’s easy to start getting greedy and I feel like in order to win races you really have to win and I got second today but I didn’t quite win.”
Shiffrin regained the lead in the overall standings. After three races, she had 180 points followed by Andrea Slocar of Slovenia with 168 points and Velhova with 160 points.
“It’s been a very successful day, especially when I look at the past three or four weeks,” Shiffrin said. “I’ve had some good skating and I’ve had some sections that were definitely not perfect but still good. It’s always great to start the season with a podium, so that’s great.”
Slokar, who won the parallel event last week, was 1.12 behind in fourth, followed by Anna Swain Larson, who finished in a hundredth fifth of a second. The Swede is back from a knee injury to compete in her first World Cup race in 21 months.
Austrian Katharina Linsberger came sixth, 1.28 behind. Linsberger outplayed Shivrin and Velhova to win the slalom World Cup title last season, just weeks after winning the World title in Discipline.
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