KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia (AP) — Petra Vlhova cemented her status as the leading female slalom skier of the season with her fifth win from six races on Sunday with just a month to go before the Olympic race in Beijing.
The overall World Cup champion from Slovakia won the penultimate slalom before the Games as she denied first-run leader Wendy Holdener of Switzerland a first career win.
Mikaela Shiffrin was third after the opening run but skied out in what seemed a blistering-fast second run until the American straddled a gate.
It was the first time in nearly four years Shiffrin failed to finish a slalom. In January 2018, she skied out in the second run of a race in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, the last slalom before the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Shiffrin defeated Vlhova to win her home race in Killington, Vermont, in November, but all other slaloms this season went the Slovakian's way.
“I am always trying to be the best, to be the fastest in the race. I am satisfied about my second run, especially,” Vlhova said.
Trailing Holdener by eight-hundredths of a second, Vlhova had the fastest second-run time to put pressure on the Swiss leader as the last starter.
Racing in her 100th career slalom, Holdener held on to her lead for the first half of her run but ultimately finished 0.23 behind Vlhova. Anna Swenn Larsson of Sweden was 1.06 behind in third.
Swenn Larsson returned to the podium for the first time in nearly two years, after sitting out last season with a knee injury.
“It has been a long road with my injury last season,” Swenn Larsson said. “I am super happy, it's unbelievable. I'm proud to be back.”
Vlhova called the race “a big fight” after criticizing course conditions following days of snowfall in the Slovenian resort.
“This morning I was a little bit angry because when I saw conditions, they were not, like, perfect, not like World Cup race,” Vlhova said.
“Second run I did perfect everything. In the end it is another victory, so I'm happy because my team, they do everything for me to be in perfect shape.”
It was the Slovakian’s 25th career win. She leads the discipline standings by a massive 240 points from runner-up Shiffrin. The American, however, remained in the overall lead, 35 points ahead of Vlhova.
World Cup and world slalom champion Katharina Liensberger of Austria also straddled a gate in her second run.
The result meant yet another heartbreak for Holdener.
The Swiss skier has racked up 29 slalom podiums without winning a race. No other skier in World Cup history, female or male, had more top-three results in a single discipline without a win.
“I skied really good, I made one mistake too much, but I went for it so I’m happy,” Holdener said. “I think I gave myself the chance to win, that’s why I’m happy.”
Her Swiss teammate Michelle Gisin skied out early in her first run when she straddled the third gate.
Last season, Gisin became the first Swiss skier to win a women’s slalom in nearly 19 years. Gisin and Liensberger are the only skiers other than Shiffrin and Vlhova to have won a slalom since January 2017.
Shiffrin's second-run exit left Paula Moltzan as the top finisher from the U.S. ski team in 13th place. Suffering from a fractured wrist, Moltzan has been skiing with the pole taped to her left glove. She also defied a sore knee following her crash in Saturday's giant slalom on the same hill.
No spectators were allowed at the event, which had been moved from another Slovenian resort, Maribor, because of a lack snow.
The next race is a night slalom in Schladming, Austria, on Tuesday in an event relocated from Flachau, which has been hit by a recent rise in coronavirus infections.
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