Competitions and Events

Petra Vlhova Claims Victory in Zagreb Slalom; Shiffrin Narrowly Misses Podium

Mikaela Shiffrin finished fourth and led two other Americans in the Top 20.

Despite a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that hit Croatia on Dec. 29 and warm conditions that made for a soft and slow race track, the women’s World Cup slalom event in Zagreb went on as planned on Jan. 3. After a disappointing performance in the Semmering slalom, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova clinched the win by a mere 0.11 seconds and was crowned Zagreb’s Snow Queen for the second consecutive year. Austria’s Katharina Liensberger finished second and Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin rounded out the podium in third.

Watch: Petra Vlhova’s Winning Run, 2021 Zagreb Slalom 

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Warm temperatures and rain made for difficult surface conditions and extraordinarily tight margins separating the top four racers. Mikaela Shiffrin sat in fourth after her first run, just 0.42 seconds off Vlhova’s leading time. She put down a strong second run but it wasn’t enough to overtake Vlhova, Liensberger, or Gisin, who all skied aggressively to maintain their first run positions. In the end, Shiffrin was forced to settle for fourth, missing the podium by just 0.05 seconds.

Mikaela Shiffrin, 2021 World Cup Slalom, Zagreb Croatia
Mikaela Shiffrin skis in the Zagreb night slalom on January 3, 2021.Photo: Getty Images

“Things are going in a good direction,” Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard after the race. “But it takes time and I always said that from the beginning: It’s not easy to win. Especially if you don’t have momentum, then it’s even harder. It’s always really hard work—hard mentally and I know that. I’m trying not to expect too much.”

Shiffrin, who has 43 World Cup slalom victories to her name—more than any other man or woman in World Cup history—has become accustomed to claiming the top podium spot in this technical discipline. But given her long hiatus from World Cup racing and training after the death of her father and due to the pandemic, Shiffrin is still working on finding that winning momentum.

Watch: Mikaela Shiffrin’s Second Run, 2021 Zagreb Slalom

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Shiffrin’s not alone in that fight. Vlhova, Shiffrin’s main rival in the slalom discipline, also struggled with her confidence heading into the Zagreb slalom after a disappointing fourth-place finish in the last slalom event in Semmering, Austria.

“I’m happy to be back [on the podium],” Vlhova commented after her win in Zagreb. “It wasn’t easy after Semmering, because I had really bad feelings there. It was hard to gain confidence and come back to take first place. And it was a really tough day. I found something inside me and just pushed harder.”

Liensberger and Gisin, on the other hand, seem to be hitting their stride in the slalom event. Gisin has now podiumed in the last three World Cup slalom races, even claiming her career-first victory in Semmering on Dec. 29. Liensberger has found herself on the podium in every slalom this World Cup season, though she has not yet claimed the top spot.

The U.S. women’s tech team as a whole is steadily gaining a foothold in the Top 30 in World Cup events. Paula Moltzan and Katie Hensien both scored World Cup points in Zagreb by finishing 14th and 18th respectively. Nina O’Brien was sitting in 30th after her first run but straddled a gate in the second run. 

Thanks to her win in Zagreb, Vlhova still leads the slalom standings with 350 points. Gisin is ranked second with 285 points, just five points ahead of Liensberger in third. Shiffrin now sits in fourth place with 235 points.

Vlhova also still leads in the overall category with 615 points. Gisin is in second place with 418 points, while Shiffrin is currently ranked third overall with 385 points.

From Zagreb the women’s World Cup circuit moves on to St. Anton, Austria for the next speed events of the Tour, with the next downhill scheduled for Jan. 9 and super-G slotted for Jan. 10. 

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