Mikaela Shiffrin 1, Petra Vlhova 1: Over to the slalom to determine who is the queen of the skiing World Championships.
Vlhova won the latest episode of what is rapidly emerging as the biggest female rivalry in the sport by capturing gold in the giant slalom on Thursday to become Slovakia’s first world champion.
Coping best in winds that reached 70kph amid unseasonably mild temperatures, Vlhova used her size and power to negate a 0.19-second deficit to Viktoria Rebensburg after the first run and beat the German by 0.14 seconds.
Shiffrin took bronze to add to the gold medal she won in the super-G on the opening day.
Asked if the slalom today would determine the best female ski racer of the championships, Vlhova — the gold medal around her neck — leaned back on the sofa.
“We will see on Saturday, but sure it will be a good fight with Miki,” she said.
Aged 23 like Shiffrin, Vlhova is proving to be the biggest threat to the American’s dominance of Alpine skiing. The Slovakian is the only racer to beat Shiffrin in the slalom this season and she also recently won two giant slaloms on the World Cup circuit — tying with Shiffrin in the final giant slalom before the worlds.
This win, which added to the silver she won in the Alpine combined on Friday last week, took her to a new level.
“Finally, I showed to everyone who is Petra from Slovakia,” Vlhova said.
Shiffrin knows about her, all right.
“It’s motivation,” she said. “It’s inspiring in some ways.”
Shiffrin said she lost some self-belief once she saw the conditions in the morning, when it rained for the second straight day to add to the strong winds that forced organizers once again to shorten the course.
There was already added external pressure on the American after she chose to skip the combined to preserve energy for the giant slalom and slalom. The careful planning did not pay off.
Shiffrin was 0.44 seconds off Rebensburg’s lead following the first run.
Determined to ski more aggressively in the second leg, Shiffrin turned in only the sixth-fastest run and ended up happy just to claim third place for her sixth World Championship medal — just two off the US record.
Vlhova relished the conditions. She even overcame crashing into a gate in between the second and third checkpoints of the second run, which saw her briefly lose control.
“Sometimes it’s really hard and you have a lot of pressure because in Slovakia, we are a small country and we have just a few athletes like I am,” she said.
There is still more to come from Vlhova, who said she might start competing in speed events “because we knew from the summer I can be really fast.”
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