ALPINE SKIING: Vlhova conquers Shiffrin again, this time in Flachau

Slovakia's Petra Vlhova (Photo: FIS)

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova is proving to be a worthy foil to American Mikaela Shiffrin on the FIS World Cup circuit this season, scoring her second win of the season over Shiffrin this season in the night Slalom held on Flachau (AUT) on Tuesday.

It was a come-from-behind victory for Vlhova. Shiffrin led everyone after the first run and had a 56.14-56.45 lead over Vlhova, but their positions were reversed when Vlhova logged the fastest second run (56.40) and Shiffrin was third-fastest, in 56.86 and Vlhova had the win, 1:52.85-1:53.00.

“It’s a bit [of] mixed emotions,” said Shiffrin afterwards. “Yeah fifteen-hundredths is so small, and there is some disappointment, but I’ve also been ahead of Petra by the same small margin.”

“I knew that I can’t win every race, and every time I’m there, she’s also right there. I know the second run she was going to go like crazy, she wasn’t far behind, and I had to be really aggressive and I had some spots – a few mistakes here and there – and that cost some time. But anyway, it was a big fight and she is doing a really great job, so I have to say congrats. But, yeah, it’s motivation too!”

It was also the seventh race in 18 days for Shiffrin, in France, Austria, Norway, Croatia and then back to Austria. “I’m dead, I’m done,” Shiffrin said. “We have a short bit of time for some rest and some training before Kronplatz (ITA: 15 January), and that’s really good, because if we had to race tomorrow. I don’t think I could do it.”

All that effort paid off, however, in a 1,294-848 lead over Vlhova in the overall World Cup standings, with Swiss Wendy Holdener third at 559. Shiffrin is well on her way to a third straight World Cup title. By comparison, she scored 1,643 points to win the 2016-17 title and 1,773 to win last year, so she’s already well ahead of schedule.

That cushion allows some flexibility and Shiffrin has some decisions ahead. “I have to make some decisions about what the schedule is going to be for the next couple of weeks, and also going into World Championships, and to know that (Vlhova) is so strong in slalom, so strong in giant slalom, and not really doing speed.

“I have to decide what is more important? Do I want to be able to do speed, slalom, GS? Or do I want to be really strong in slalom and GS, and how does that fit into the program leading into World Championships? So then it’s just making some decisions about that. How I can train? How I can manage the energy? And for sure, how can I manage the motivation?”

A good sign for U.S. women’s skiing came in the second run as Paula Moltzan recorded the second-fastest time on the second run and finished a career-best 12th. Summaries from Flachau:

FIS Alpine World Cup
Flachau (AUT) ~ 8 January 2019
(Full results here)

Women’s Slalom: 1. Petra Vlhova (SVK), 1:52.85; 2. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA), 1:53.00; 3. Katharina Liensberger (AUT), 1:54.02; 4. Wendy Holdener (SUI), 1:54.50; 5. Frida Hansdotter (SWE), 1:54.76. Also in the top 25: 12. Paula Moltzhan (USA), 1:57.51.