Slovakia’s Vlhova wins first World Cup giant slalom, first-run leader Shiffrin finishes fifth

Eric Willemsen
Associated Press

First-place finisher Petra Vlhova of Slovakia celebrates with second-place finisher Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, left, and third-place finisher Tessa Worley of France in the finish area of the alpine ski women's World Cup giant slalom event in Semmering, Austria on Friday.
Giovanni Auletta / AP

SEMMERING, Austria — Petra Vlhova became the first Slovakian winner of a women’s World Cup giant slalom on Friday, benefiting from first-run leader Mikaela Shiffrin’s uncharacteristic second run which saw the Olympic champion drop to fifth.

Vlhova buried her face in her hands after completing her final run and taking the lead in the race, before witnessing the top three racers from the first run fail to match her pace.

“It’s amazing. I am really happy. I felt great and finally I had two perfect runs,” said Vlhova, who was fourth after the opening run, trailing Shiffrin by 0.06 seconds, but posted the second-fastest time in the final leg to land her first victory in the discipline.

It was the fifth career win for the slalom specialist, whose previous best result in GS was seventh.

World Cup giant slalom champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany was the fastest in the final run as she climbed from 10th to second place, 0.45 behind Vlhova, and Tessa Worley of France trailed by 0.60 in third.

Shiffrin led the race after a tight opening run with only six hundredths of a second separating the top four racers.

On a course set by her coach Mike Day, Shiffrin started the final run with a slim lead of 0.02 but the Olympic champion from the United States posted the 10th fastest time and finished 0.66 off the lead.

“It was tricky, it was really tight. But sometimes you push over the limit or in the wrong way,” said Shiffrin, who had a five-race winning streak snapped.

The result meant Shiffrin missed out Friday on an outright record 15th World Cup victory in this calendar year, but she can still set the record if she wins a slalom on the same course on Saturday, the final women’s race in 2018.

Immediately after Friday’s race, Shiffrin went to a nearby slalom course to make several practice runs. This season, Shiffrin has won three slaloms and a parallel event, with Vlhova coming runner-up each time.

“It’s super cool,” Shiffrin said about Vlhova’s first win. “Petra is always pushing me. She has been pushing me in slalom for a long time. Now she is pushing me in GS. Especially this year, a lot of these races are really tight. Last year I was always thinking Vicky (Rebensburg) or Tessa (Worley) was going to win, this year it’s Tessa or Vicky or Fede (Brignone) or Petra, there are a lot of girls.”

Vlhova called her duels with the American two-time overall champion “really interesting.”

“I was always second, second, second, and she was always in front of me,” Vlhova said. “I am really happy and I am proud of my team. The last two months we did a really good job in giant slalom.”

A key part of the Slovakian’s private team is Livio Magoni, who formerly coached 2013 overall champion Tina Maze of Slovenia.

“For me it’s really important to have Livio in my team,” Vlhova said. “A lot of time he shares the experiences he had with Tina. This helps me a lot.”

Shiffrin and Vlhova also remain first and second, respectively, in the overall World Cup standings. Even after Vlhova’s win, the American still leads by a massive 446 points.

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