SEMMERING, AUSTRIA - Petra Vlhova became the first Slovakian winner of a women’s World Cup giant slalom on Friday, benefiting from first-run leader Mikaela Shiffrin’s uncharacteristic second run which saw the Olympic champion drop to fifth.
Vlhova buried her face in her hands after completing her final run and taking the lead in the race, before witnessing the top three racers from the first run fail to match her pace.
“It’s amazing. I am really happy. I felt great and finally I had two perfect runs,” said Vlhova, who was fourth after the opening run, trailing Shiffrin by 0.06 seconds, but posted the second-fastest time in the final leg to land her first victory in the discipline.
It was the fifth career win for the slalom specialist, whose previous best result in GS was seventh.
World Cup GS champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany was the fastest in the final run as she climbed from 10th to second place, 0.45 behind Vlhova, and Tessa Worley of France trailed by 0.60 in third.
Shiffrin led the race after a tight opening run with only six hundredths of a second separating the top four racers.
On a course set by her coach Mike Day, Shiffrin started the final run with a slim lead of 0.02 but the Olympic champion from the Unites States posted the 10th-fastest time and finished 0.66 off the lead.
“It was tricky, it was really tight. But sometimes you push over the limit or in the wrong way,” said Shiffrin, who had a five-race winning streak snapped.
The result meant Shiffrin missed out Friday on an outright record 15th World Cup victory in this calendar year, but she can still set the record if she wins a slalom on the same course Saturday, the last women’s race in 2018.
Immediately after Friday’s race, Shiffrin went to a nearby slalom course to make several practice runs. This season, Shiffrin has won three slaloms and a parallel event, with Vlhova coming runner-up each time.
“It’s super cool,” Shiffrin said about Vlhova’s first win. “Petra is always pushing me. She has been pushing me in slalom for a long time. Now she is pushing me in GS. Especially this year, a lot of these races are really tight.”
Vlhova called her duels with the American two-time overall champion “really interesting.”
“I was always second, second, second, and she was always in front of me,” Vlhova said. “I am really happy and I am proud of my team. The last two months we did a really good job in giant slalom.”
Shiffrin and Vlhova also remain first and second, respectively, in the overall World Cup standings. Even after Vlhova’s win, the American still leads by a massive 446 points.
In Bormio, Italy, competing on home snow, Dominik Paris and Christof Innerhofer of Italy finished 1-2 on Friday in the physically demanding World Cup downhill on the Stelvio course.
The festivities for the host nation were interrupted when Slovenian skier Klemen Kosi was airlifted by helicopter with suspected facial trauma to a local hospital after crashing.
Paris trailed Innerhofer on the upper section of the icy course but was faster at the bottom and finished 0.36 seconds ahead of his teammate.
Beat Feuz, the Swiss racer who won the season-long World Cup downhill title last season, finished third, 0.52 behind.