Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova competes during an alpine ski, women’s World Cup slalom in Flachau, Austria, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020.
Petra Vlhova won a women’s World Cup night slalom on Tuesday, handing Mikaela Shiffrin a rare second straight defeat in the American’s strongest discipline.
After building a lead of six tenths of a second from the opening run, the Slovakian skier won the race by 0.10 seconds over Anna Swenn Larsson of Sweden.
Shiffrin, who was second after the opening run, came 0.43 behind in third for her worst result in slalom in two years, when she failed to finish in the final race before the Pyeongchang Olympics.
“Both of us, we had a lot of emotions. I have really big respect for her, for me she is a champion. It’s a really good battle,” Vlhova said about her American rival, who gave her a hug after the race to congratulate on the victory.
“I know she is angry because she wants to always win,” Vlhova said. “It’s good to have Miki close to me because she pushes me. It’s good for our sport to have two girls like this. We are both on the top.”
Vlhova closed the gap to Shiffrin in the slalom standings to 80 points, but she still trails the American by 273 in the overall rankings.
Vlhova beat Shiffrin by a margin of 1.31 seconds in Zagreb 10 days ago, which ended the American’s winning streak in slaloms after nearly a year.
The previous time that Shiffrin lost back-to-back slaloms in a single season was more than five years ago.
In three races in November and December 2014, she placed 11th, fifth and fourth, respectively, and parted ways with long-term coach Roland Pfeifer shortly afterward.
“I am happy to be on the podium again. I am disappointed with my skiing. But that’s ski racing,” Shiffrin said. “After Zagreb, I knew I had to get some training and fix some things with my slalom skiing. I feel like I accomplished a lot in my training but it’s also another race, it’s a different race, it’s a different day, and I didn’t quite put it out there in the race today.”
Shiffrin failed to make up her deficit in the final run even though she was 0.17 seconds faster than Vlhova on a course with more sharp turns than the first leg.
Her head coach, Mike Day, placed the gates for the final run but Shiffrin denied it was set against Vlhova, who favors more straightforward courses.
“You can’t set a course against her right now because her skiing is the best,” Shiffrin said. “So she is able to do any course and handle it the way she needs to.”
All 25 World Cup slaloms since January 2017, when Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter triumphed here, have been won by either Shiffrin — with 19 — or Vlhova.
Shiffrin has a record 43 World Cup wins in the discipline, and has won four straight world championships and Olympic gold in 2014 in skiing’s most technically demanding event.
Runner-up Swenn Larsson matched her career best result and came just one-tenth short of her first win.
“Of course I really wanted to win. Hopefully it will come one day but I am super happy with second place,” said the Swede, who finished third here last season but was disqualified shortly after the race as she had straddled a gate.
The floodlit race in Austria with 14,800 spectators had the highest prize fund on the women’s World Cup this season, with Vlhova receiving 70,000 euros ($77,900) for the win.
The women’s World Cup continues in Sestriere, Italy, this weekend for a giant slalom and parallel GS, followed by several weeks of speed racing.
The next slalom is scheduled for Maribor, Slovenia, on Feb. 16.