Competitions and Events

Michelle Gisin Breaks Shiffrin-Vlhova Slalom Streak in Semmering

The Swiss skier bested slalom giants Mikaela Shiffrin and Petra Vlhova to claim her first World Cup slalom victory.

On Tuesday, Dec. 29, Swiss skier Michelle Gisin became the first racer to win a women’s World Cup slalom outside of Mikaela Shiffrin and Petra Vlhova, two skiers who have collectively won the last 28 slalom events on the women’s World Cup circuit. Sitting just 0.02 seconds behind Shiffrin after the first run in Semmering, Austria, Gisin followed up with a strong second run that was good enough to catapult her to her first World Cup slalom victory.

“It’s just amazing,” Gisin said after the race. “My first victory exactly eight years after my first race… today it might be me but soon it will be Wendy [Holdener] again. I broke the incredible run of two giants… it was just the perfect day.”

Michelle Gisin wins Semmering World Cup Slalom, 2020
Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin on her way to winning the slalom in Semmering, Austria.Photo: Getty Images

Shiffrin made a few mistakes in the middle of her second run that cost her valuable time. She crossed the finish line 0.57 seconds behind Gisin’s winning time, which was good enough for third place. Austria’s Katharina Liensberger, who sat in third after the first run, skied a phenomenal second run to secure the second-fastest time overall, 0.11 seconds behind Gisin.

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova struggled to come back after costly mistakes in the first run landed in her in sixth place. She was able to recoup time in a smoother and quicker second run, but her combined time wasn’t enough to move her up to the podium and she settled in fourth, 1.36 seconds behind Gisin’s winning time.

Wendy Holdener from Switzerland, usually a top contender in slalom and usually Switzerland’s top racer in technical races, skied a promising first run that put her in fifth place going into the second run. She skied a fluid second run save for a few late turns in the middle section of the course and finished in fifth overall, right behind Vlhova.

At the start of this World Cup season, Shiffrin speculated that it would be difficult to predict the top contenders for any given race considering the unprecedented circumstances. “No matter who is labeled the favorite for a competition, there’s always somebody else out there who is going to do a good job and sometimes it’s not who you expect,” she said.

Gisin has now twice proven herself to be that unexpected contender. Ranked eighth in the world last season in slalom, she came out of the blue to land her career-first World Cup slalom podium in Levi, Finland in November and has now followed up with her first victory in the first slalom event since Levi.

Nina O'Brien in Semmering, Austria World Cup Slalom
American Nina O’Brien in the FIS World Cup Slalom in Semmering, Austria.Photo: Getty Images

American Nina O’Brien also proved herself to be a surprising contender in Tuesday’s race. After a first run that placed her in 24th, O’Brien skied the best slalom of her life to move up a staggering 15 places to finish 9th overall. It is her best World Cup slalom finish to date. American Katie Hensien also posted a career-best finish by qualifying for a second run and then landing in the top 30, scoring her first World Cup points.

Thanks to her victory in Semmering, Gisin now finds herself in second in the women’s World Cup slalom standings with 225 points and second in the overall standings with 427 points. Vlhova still leads the overall rankings with 515 points as well as the slalom standings with 250 points. Shiffrin is in third overall with 335 points and fourth in slalom with 185 points, right behind Liensberger.

From Semmering, the women’s World Cup moves on to Zagreb, Croatia, for the third slalom of the season on Jan. 3.