Shiffrin wins World Cup slalom opener

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Even with less pre-sea­son slalom train­ing than usual, Amer­i­can skier Mikaela Shiffrin keeps dom­i­nat­ing her fa­vorite dis­ci­pline. The Olympic and world cham­pion shifted her fo­cus in prac­tice to su­per-G and even down­hill, but her reign in the slalom dis­ci­pline has re­mained un­af­fected. Shiffrin held on to a com­fort­able open­ingrun lead to win the first women’s World Cup slalom of the sea­son yes­ter­day.

She fin­ished in a two-run com­bined time of 1 minute, 52.71 sec­onds, 0.67 ahead of Switzer­land’s Wendy Hold­ener. Slo­vakia’s Pe­tra Vl­hova came 0.75 back in third.

“Now I al­most feel like I wish there was more time be­fore the next races so I could train more and im­prove more,” Shiffrin said about in­creas­ing the num­ber of speed events on her sched­ule. The rest of Satur­day’s field trailed Shiffrin by at least a sec­ond, while Swe­den’s Frida Hans­dot­ter, who was run­ner-up af­ter the open­ing leg, failed to fin­ish her sec­ond run.

“I am never con­fi­dent, re­ally,” said Shiffrin, who has won all nine slaloms that she has com­peted in since Fe­bru­ary 2015. How­ever, Hans­dot­ter took the slalom ti­tle last sea­son as Shiffrin missed five races be­cause of a knee in­jury. Shiffrin’s ninth con­sec­u­tive win left her one short of Jan­ica Kostelic’s record. The Croa­t­ian great won 10 straight slaloms that she com­peted in be­tween De­cem­ber 1999 and Fe­bru­ary 2001.

Still, Shiffrin wouldn’t take any­thing for granted, re­fer­ring to the strength of her chal­lengers. “Frida went out, and Wendy skied re­ally strong but she had a huge mis­take the first run,” the Amer­i­can said. “With­out that mis­take she would have been even faster, and Pe­tra was re­ally good as well.” The vic­tory in north­ern Fin­land earned Shiffrin an usual prize - a rein­deer. She got one from her pre­vi­ous win here in 2013 and called him ‘Rudolph.’ This time she was go­ing to call him ‘Sven’ - af­ter the rein­deer from the movie “Frozen.” It was Shiffrin’s 21st ca­reer win and 20th in slalom, match­ing Kostelic’s num­ber of wins. Only Aus­tria’s Marlies Raich (35) and Swiss pair Vreni Sch­nei­der (34) and Erika Hess (21) won more slaloms.

Rac­ing down the slope in the or­ange glow of the set­ting Arc­tic sun, Shiffrin took a 0.72-sec­ond lead over Hans­dot­ter and Hold­ener, who shared sec­ond place af­ter the open­ing run.

While Hold­ener put pres­sure on Shiffrin with a near-flaw­less sec­ond at­tempt, Hans­dot­ter strad­dled a gate when she en­tered the steep pitch and failed to fin­ish. Shiffrin wasn’t clean from the start of her fi­nal run and had lost 0.13 on Hold­ener at the first split, but the Amer­i­can ac­cel­er­ated to ex­tend her lead to 0.92 be­fore avoid­ing risks in the fi­nal part of her run. The vic­tory gave Shiffrin, who placed sec­ond in the sea­son-open­ing GS last month, the lead in the over­all stand­ings with 180 points, 80 clear of Lara Gut. The over­all cham­pion from Switzer­land won the race last month but usu­ally does not com­pete in slaloms. The 18-year-old Me­lanie Meil­lard of Switzer­land, who was com­pet­ing in her fourth World Cup race, started in 40th but fin­ished sixth, 1.87 off the lead. Aus­tria’s Ber­nadette Schild, younger sis­ter of retired slalom great Marlies Raich, failed to qual­ify for the sec­ond run af­ter dam­ag­ing the edge of a ski early in her run and fin­ish­ing 3.92 sec­onds be­hind Shiffrin. A men’s slalom on the same course is sched­uled for to­day. — AP

LEVI: First placed Mikaela Shiffrin poses with man dressed as Santa Claus on the podium of an alpine ski­ing women’s World Cup slalom, in Levi, Fin­land, yes­ter­day. —AP

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