After a short break for the holidays, the ladies’ World Cup picked up again with giant slalom and slalom in Semmering, Austria on Friday and Saturday. It seems a few days off were exactly what Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova needed to recharge and finally storm to the top of the podium in Friday’s GS—a historic first World Cup GS victory for any racer, male or female, from Slovakia. Vlohova, who regularly challenges Mikaela Shiffrin for first place in slalom, had never podiumed in GS until her win in Semmering on Friday.
Shiffrin, who held the lead in GS after the first run, fell to fifth place after the second run, putting an end to her winning streak. While she missed the podium in the GS, Shiffrin finished back on top in her best event, the slalom, on Saturday, a huge win as it marked her 36th World Cup slalom victory. Shiffrin now holds the women’s all time World Cup slalom win record, held until now by Shiffrin’s childhood hero Marlies Schild of Austria. She now also holds the record for most World Cup wins (15) in a calendar year.
Semmering Women’s Giant Slalom
Vlhova’s win in Friday’s giant slalom was anything but a given. Shiffrin, Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, Tessa Worley of France, and Federica Brignone of Italy, all of whom have podiumed in at least one GS event this season, were favored to win or podium in Semmering’s GS. Vlhova, having finished outside the top 5 in this season’s World Cup GS races and ranked 13th in the world in the event last season, was not considered a contender.
But the first run of Friday’s GS proved a surprising and exciting one, with Shiffrin posting the fastest time, but only by hundredths of a second. Austria’s Stephanie Brunner trailed by only 0.02 seconds, and Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway by 0.03 seconds. Vlhova, racing with bib number 12, surprised with a very fast run, crossing the finish line in fourth, only 0.06 seconds behind Shiffrin’s leading time. Rebensburg, who made a costly mistake half way down the course, finished her first run in 10th place; Worley found herself in seventh and Brignone in sixth.
Traditionally, not much changes between the results of the first and second runs—the top four might trade places with each other, but generally, barring any major mistakes or disqualifications, the top finishers of the first run will also be the top finishers of the second run. But Friday’s GS proved that theory wrong.
Shiffrin, Brunner and Mowinckel skied their second runs without any glaring mistakes, yet not aggressively enough to contend with the second runs posted by Rebensburg, Worley, and Vlhova. Rebensburg, who sat in 10th after Run 1, ended up posting the fastest second run of the day, an incredible run that was enough to move her up to second place overall. Worley posted the fourth fastest second run, moving her up from seventh to third overall. And Vlhova blew crowds away with a superb run, finishing 0.13 seconds behind Rebensburg’s second time but scoring the fasted overall time by an astonishing 0.45 seconds—more than enough to secure her first career GS win.
“She really destroyed it today, a great second run,” Worley said about Vlhova after the race. “She was always skiing around the podium in GS. We’ve seen some great runs, but today she [skied] two really great runs. She’s now another girl to beat. There are so many in GS…At the start you just know you have to give it your all, otherwise you’re just not even in the top 10.”
In the end, Shiffrin had to settle for fifth place, behind Brunner in fourth. Americans AJ Hurt and Nina O’Brien did not finish their first runs.
“Not my day today,” Shiffrin posted on Instagram following the race, “but I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Someone from the media asked me if I’m looking for revenge tomorrow. I try not to ski for revenge…I think it’s always better to ski for inspiration.”
Semmering Women’s Slalom
Shiffrin was able to shake off her disappointing second GS run on Friday to regain a commanding lead over Vlhova (0.48 seconds) and Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter (0.53 seconds) in the first run of Saturday’s slalom race.
But Vlhova, who has come agonizingly close to winning all three World Cup slalom events of the season only to settle for second place behind Shiffrin each time launched out of the start gate for her second run with a vengeance. At this point, Vlhova has made a name for herself for her consistency, and true to form, she posted another very strong second run, topping her first and again placing her in the leader’s box.
Read more: Shiffrin Sweep St. Moritz World Cup Weekend
But again, it was not enough to take the overall lead from Shiffrin, who as the fastest finisher of Run 1 came down the course last knowing she would need to ski more aggressively to protect her lead. She crossed the finish line 0.29 seconds ahead of Vlhova, and 0.38 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, who moved up from fourth to third place overall. Americans Paula Moltzan and Nina O’Brien did not finish their first runs in Saturday’s slalom race.
Shiffrin’s win on Saturday marked her 36th career World Cup slalom victory, and makes her the new record holder for most women’s World Cup slalom wins in history—claiming that title from her childhood hero Marlies Schild.
“I have said it many times already that I am not one for all the statistics or chasing records,” Shiffrin wrote in an Instagram post. “…My whole career, my only real goal is to put my highest level of skiing out every time I race, and to push the sport to new limits. That is what Marlies did, and that is what she inspired me to do. So I can’t sit here and say that I think am the best slalom skier, because I don’t. Without Marlies, I would not be where I am now.”
Where Shiffrin is right now, though, is easily summed up by numbers: She’s now on to her 51st World Cup win, tied for seventh on the all-time World Cup win list (at only 23 years old), and finds herself at the top of the World Cup overall leader board with an incredible 466 point margin over Vlhova.
See full results from the Semmering giant slalom and slalom events here.