LEVI, FINLAND (AP) – Petra Vlhova held onto her lead in the first leg to beat Mikaela Shiffrin to win the first World Cup slalom of the season on Saturday.
The Slovak overall champion initially lost a few hundredths of her slim .11 lead but accelerated towards the end of her final heat to win by .31 as the pair continued to dominate the annual event in Finnish Lapland.
No other skier than Vlhova or Shiffrin has won the traditional opening slalom of the season since then overall champion Tina Maze triumphed in 2014. Shiffrin and Vlhova have now won four each. times.
“Here, on this kind of track that I love to ski, it’s something special for me,” said Vlhova, who won two slaloms in one weekend here last year.
Having faced a back problem that has hampered his training in recent weeks, Shiffrin has had to wait in his attempt to equal the 32-year-old record for most World Cup wins in a single discipline. Currently with 45 wins in the slalom, the American is a short distance from the best score of the great Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the giant slalom.
Lena DÃ¼rr was third at 0.84 for the German skier’s second career podium, almost nine years after winning an urban event in Moscow.
Andreja Slokar of Slovenia, who won the parallel event last week, was 1.12 behind in fourth place, followed by Anna Swenn Larsson, who was a hundredth of a second behind in fifth. The Swede has returned from a knee injury to compete in her first World Cup race in 21 months.
Austria’s Katharina Liensberger was 1.28 behind in the sixth. Linksberger edged out Shiffrin and Vlhova to win the World Cup slalom title last season, a few weeks after also claiming the world title in the discipline.
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