Tuesday, February 27, 2024
HomenewsEmotional Shiffrin wins World Cup night slalom in Flachau, Austria

Emotional Shiffrin wins World Cup night slalom in Flachau, Austria

Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates winning the women’s World Cup slalom in Flachau, Austria on Tuesday.
Marco Trovati/AP photo

Given what’s transpired over the last nine days, an unconventional night slalom was just what the doctor ordered for Mikaela Shiffrin.

“I feel 100 percent healthy again, though the last days were not a lot of sleep,” Shiffrin told the Associated Press after her first run Tuesday night in Flachau, Austria.

“But that’s a different kind of thing.”

The backstory starts with Shiffrin’s rare DNF in her most recent World Cup start on Jan. 7. The pesky cold she carried through Kranjska Gora sidelined the overall crystal globe leader from last weekend’s speed events in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee. On Sunday, she was in a Swiss hospital visiting her partner, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, after the Norwegian’s devastating crash in the Wengen World Cup downhill.

“I’m feeling OK, I’m just maybe a little bit frazzled from the last 48 hours,” Shiffrin said in an audio clip provided by spokesperson Megan Harrod on Monday. “(The crash) was obviously very shocking for the whole world to see.”

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On Tuesday, the 28-year-old put those distractions on the shelf for 1 minutes and 49.35 seconds to win her fourth slalom of the season and for the fifth time in Flachau.

“Really proud of this evening and very thankful for my whole team,” an emotional Shiffrin said on NBC’s live post-race interview after World Cup win No. 94.

“These last days have been very challenging. They’ve been so supportive and helped me go see Aleks.”

First-run leader Petra Vlhova smashed a gate in run No. 2, shortly after her skis drifted wide midway through the Griessenkar course. Unlike Shiffrin — who seemed to chew up the tightly-set lower section — Vlhova unraveled after her costly bobble to finish 0.27-seconds back in second. Sweden’s Sara Hector finished in third, 1.11 seconds from Shiffrin. It was the 31-year-old’s first-career World Cup slalom podium.

Mikaela Shiffrin competes during the women’s World Cup slalom in Flachau, Austria on Tuesday. Shiffrin came back from second after the first run to claim her 94th-career World Cup win.
Giovanni Auletta/AP photo

For Shiffrin, it was No. 81, equalling Ingemar Stenmark for the most career-World Cup slalom podiums. Other than the Jan. 7 DNF and a fourth-place finish in Levi this November, the American has been on the podium in 13 of her last 15 slalom starts.

Pursuing Petra

Vlhova took advantage of her preferred mix of grippy, responsive snow to build a 0.07-second advantage on her American rival in run No. 1.

“It’s really easy and I had to attack,” Vlhova told the AP between runs. “So I tried to attack as much as I could.”

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova skis to a first-run lead during Tuesday’s night slalom in Flachau, Austria. The defending Olympic slalom champion came into the event having won three other World Cup slaloms at the Austrian resort (2019, 2020, 2023).
Marco Trovati/AP photo

Only Swedish skiers Anna Swenn Larsson (who was 0.52 behind) and Hector (0.92 back) were within a second of the Slovak. American A.J. Hurt, who claimed her first-career World Cup podium on Jan. 7, sat in ninth, 1.38 seconds off of Vlhova’s standard, but would later ski out after just two gates in run No. 2.

“I felt quite strong with my skiing,” a satisfied Shiffrin told the AP at the halfway point. “When I crossed the finish, I thought, it takes a specific run to be faster. I knew Petra can do that.”

Shiffrin and Vlhova came into the event with victories in 12 of the last 13 World Cup slaloms, including all six this season. The Edwards icon held a minuscule five-point advantage in the discipline standings.

In her second run, Shiffrin was choppy at the top and even suffered a slight bobble. She skied the rest of the way as if intending to make up for the error, which she emphatically did.

Magnus Andersson’s compact course set catered to Shiffrin, who found the fluid rhythm she craves in the narrow turns. Known for gaining time where no one else can at the bottom of courses, Shiffrin generated speed around the last two corners to jump onto the top step of the podium with only Vlhova remaining.

The Slovak came out swinging, building her lead by 0.10 and 0.04 seconds, respectively, in each of the first two sectors. Her outside right-foot ski slid out, however, and launched the defending Olympic champion airborne over one of the many risers. Landing with her weight heavy on the heels, Vlhova recovered, but couldn’t salvage less than a quarter-second loss to Shiffrin in the pivotal third segment. Evidence of the Edwards skier’s flawless final stretch was found in Vlhova giving up another 0.23 seconds as she came up short of her 23rd-career slalom win.

Shiffrin couldn’t hold back tears at the finish of another heavyweight bout.

“Thank you guys all for cheering,” she said to the fans. “I know there’s a lot of Slovakian fans in the crowd and yeah I’m sorry for that tonight, but thank you for cheering anyway.”

Shiffrin will look to extend her overall and slalom discipline leads when the World Cup heads to Jasna, Slovakia for a giant slalom and slalom on Jan. 20-21.

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