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February hasn’t provided smooth sailing for the women on the World Cup circuit. There was a downhill race that had to be canceled due to weather; the overall World Cup leader, Mikaela Shiffrin, has been absent from the World Cup due to the unexpected death of her father; and the technical races slated to take place in Maribor, Slovenia on Feb. 15 and 16 had to be moved to nearby Kranjska Gora because of mild weather and lack of snow. Despite it all, and perhaps even because of it, this weekend’s technical races displayed exciting skiing by women vying to storm the podium in Shiffrin’s absence. Here’s what you missed in Kransjksa Gora.
Newcomer Alice Robinson Claims Second World Cup GS Victory
With Shiffrin out of the picture for Saturday’s giant slalom, all eyes were on current GS leader Federica Brignone from Italy and Petra Vlhova from Slovakia, who tied for the win in the last women’s giant slalom race on Jan. 18 in Sestriere, Italy. But at the end of the day, it was 18-year-old Alice Robinson from New Zealand who skied the fastest combined time, claiming her second World Cup GS victory of the season and of her young career.
Vlhova, who posted the fastest first run time 0.24 seconds ahead of Robinson, couldn’t quite hang on to her lead in the second run and crossed the finish 0.34 seconds slower than Robinson.
“The second run was definitely on the limit,” Robinson said after the race. “I was pushing as much as I could. I definitely had a few fumbles, but I kept the speed going. The first run I was really happy with, but I made one little mistake and knew I had to clean it up for the second run.”
Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener skied a phenomenal second run to move up from fourth to tie for third overall with Slovenia’s Meta Hrovat, who held on to her third-place rank after the first run in front of a home crowd. The third-place-tie marked both Hrovat’s and Holdener’s second career GS podium finish.
Brignone, the current GS World Cup leader, had a disappointing race, moving from sixth place in the first run down to eighth place overall. She nevertheless remains the GS leader, 74 points ahead of Vlhova and 93 points ahead of Shiffrin, who now sits in third place after missing the race. Thanks to her win on Saturday, Robinson moves up to fifth place in the GS standings. The only American to start in Saturday’s GS was Nina O’Brien, who finished 26th to score additional World Cup points.
See full Kransjksa Gora GS results here.
Vlhova Claims Slalom Victory After Swenn Larsson Defaults
At no other race was Mikaela Shiffrin’s absence from the World Cup felt more than at Sunday’s slalom, an event where one has come to expect to find Shiffrin on top of the podium. If not Shiffrin, then we look to Petra Vlhova from Slovakia, who has won the last two slalom races on the women’s World Cup circuit. While Vlhova did ultimately take the win on Sunday, her victory in Kransjksa Gora was anything but a given.
It was Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson who posted the fastest first run time of the day, crossing the finish line an impressive 0.50 seconds faster than Norway’s Nina Haver-Loseth, who sat in the leader’s box until she was unseated by Swenn Larsson. Petra Vlhova, who started with bib number 2, skied an uncharacteristically conservative run that landed her in fourth place going into the second run. Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener sat in third.
But a number of women turned on the afterburners for the second run, putting pressure on the top three to ski their best to defend their standings. Vlhova was among them, skiing a ferocious second run that was fast enough to move her from fourth place to first with only Swenn Larsson still to come down the hill.
Swenn Larsson, determined not to lose her lead, skied her second run with reckless abandon, extending her first-run lead to more than a second by the fourth split. Her victory over Vlhova seemed secure until she took one of the last gates before the finish too directly, which catapulted her over her skis and ended in a dramatic crash that had her sliding through the finish headfirst.
Swenn Larsson’s DNF resulted in Vlhova taking her third consecutive slalom victory, with Holdener landing in second place and Austria’s Katharina Truppe moving up from fifth to third overall.
“I won today, and of course I was really lucky because Anna [Swenn Larsson] was really fast,” Vlhova said after the race. “If she hadn’t made a mistake she would have won of course. So, it’s a different kind of victory, but it’s still a victory. I’m so happy I found something inside me [for the second run]. The first run I skied badly, so the second run I tried to push, and in the end I was lucky. But I’m still so happy, because again I won in front of a ‘home crowd’ and that’s amazing.”
Vlhova’s Slovakian fans, who show up in droves at the women’s European races, were ecstatic to see Vlhova take another victory while at the same time showing support for Mikaela Shiffrin by bearing a sign that said “We miss you Mikaela.” Vlhova and Shiffrin, who have been duking it out for the slalom Crystal Globe for the past three seasons, have often credited each other for making each ski their very best.
See full Kransjksa Gora slalom results here.
Vlhova’s victory on Sunday was enough to surpass Shiffrin in the slalom standings: Vlhova now leads with 460 points, with Shiffrin falling to second with 440 points; Katharina Liensberger is ranked third with 276 points.
From Slovenia, the women’s World Cup moves to Crans Montana, Switzerland on Feb. 22-23 for the next downhill and alpine combined events of the circuit.