Jasná, Slovakia – American Mikaela Shiffrin continued her unbeaten streak in slalom with a demonstrative victory on Sunday in tough conditions due to snowfall.
The Olympic champion dominated both slalom runs to finish ahead of Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener and local favourite Veronika Velez Zuzulova, who were respectively 2.36 and 2.77 seconds off the winning pace.
Shiffrin won the first two slaloms of the season by big margins in Aspen before she suffered a knee injury in Are (SWE) in December that kept her sidelined for two months. She made a sensational comeback in Crans-Montana mid-February by winning the slalom race.
“Yeah, it reminds me of Aspen quite a bit,” Shiffrin said. “I had a really good weekend there in the slaloms and it’s nice to kind of bring that skiing back today and timing felt better and better throughout the day and it wasn’t easy, that’s for sure. It was a long course and I was really tired at the end of the second run, but I’m really happy.”
The atmosphere around the race was simply incredible as more than 17’000 people flocked into the resort to cheer not only for their national athletes but for all the racers.
“It’s a great event”, Shiffrin added. “It’s awesome that Zuzu was able to perform under that pressure and like I said, it’s kind of her day today as well because you know after 32 years, I think it was, coming back to race here, to get this race off, it was a little bit of a struggle, but then she performed and that’s not easy.
It was Shiffrin’s 19th career World Cup victory. She has now won in the last seven slalom races she participated in. The last time she failed to win in slalom was in Flachau in January 2015 (third).
Fired up by her maiden World Cup victory in Stockholm city event and a second place in Soldeu alpine combined, Wendy Holdener was raring to sparkle again and managed to move up from fourth place after the first run. It was her sixth career podium-finish.
“The last two weeks have been amazing for me,” Holdener confessed. “I’m so happy that I made it to the podium today. It was tough. I thought the slope was more bumpy for the second run, but it was really good. I can’t believe that I was in first position when I got to the finish because I had a big fight. I’m so happy.”
Zuzulova, who trailed Shiffrin by 1.67 seconds after an intense and long first run, managed to deal with the pressure to earn her 24th career podium.
“I can say maybe it was the toughest podium of my life and even the nicer,” Zuzulova said. “Because we are like a small country, there was a lot of pressure. The fans and the spectators were expecting a podium and I knew they would not be happy with another result. So I tried to do my best and I am really happy that I am on the podium and that they go away from here happy.”
The course workers were very efficient at clearing the fresh snow off the race hill and a very well prepared base gave enabled the 60 racers to have a really good race.
“I can say that this year we had worse races than today,” Zuzulova continued. “The conditions were really perfect. They had no easy situation, but they had many people working hard on the slope, so I can say that the slope was really perfect.”
With a disappointing 10th place, Hansdotter saw her lead over Zuzulova in the slalom standings reduced to 105 points, 651 to 546. But with one race remaining at the World Cup finals in St. Moritz, the 30-year-old Swede has already secured the discipline globe, the first title in her career.
Competition resumes tomorrow Monday with the giant slalom that was initially scheduled for Saturday but postponed because of strong winds.