Mikaela Shiffrin Begins her World Cup Defence with a Dominating Slalom Victory in Finland

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Mikaela Shiffrin began her quest for her sixth career FIS Ski World Cup slalom crystal globe with another dominating victory in the season-opening slalom in Levi, Finland on Saturday, reports US Ski and SnowboardThe opening slalom race of last year’s World Cup in Levi, Finland, was one of only two slalom events that Mikaela Shiffrin did not win.

“I felt good, I was even surprised at how good the course felt with the warm conditions,” said Shiffrin, who now has 44 career World Cup victories, including three slalom wins in Levi—which equals Germany Maria Höfl-Riesch’s record win count on the Levi Black slope. “I had a little bit of a scary moment on the pitch, but I fought through it and it was fun!”

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Mikaela Shiffrin on course. Credit: Examiner.org

The start of the first run was delayed an hour and moved further down the mountain due to windy conditions, and despite warm temperatures, the course remained hard and fast. Shiffrin started first, and in her flawless and aggressive opening run opened a 0.14 second lead over Sweden’s Friday Hansdotter, who eventually settled for fourth.

Slovakia’s Petra Vhlova skied a solid second run to finish second, 0.58 seconds back of Shiffrin’s winning time, and Austria’s Bernadette Schild was third, 0.79 seconds back. Resi Stiegler (Jackson Hole, Wyo.), who was racing for the first time since sustaining a knee injury at the Olympic slalom in PyeongChang, and Nina O’Brien (Denver, Colo.), also started for the U.S. but did not qualify for the second run.

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1st place for Mikaela Shiffrin. Credit: US Ski and Snowboard

Saturday’s victory also moves Shiffrin into the overall World Cup lead, following her third-place finish in the giant slalom at Soelden, Austria, last month. With 160 points, Shiffrin leads the standings over France’s Tessa Worley (100 points) followed by Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener (81 points).

The women’s World Cup circuit moves on to Vermont’s Killington Resort for the Killington Cup, Nov. 24-25 with giant slalom and slalom events. Shiffrin has won the slalom the past two years at Killington and finished fifth in the giant slalom in 2016, and second in 2017. Lindsey Vonn and other members of the U.S. Ski Team competing in the speed events will start their season in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Nov. 30.

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Marcel Hirscher was fastest on the Levi slalom first run. Credit: AFP Photo/Markku Ulander

In what appears to be another season battle between technical discipline gurus Austria’s Marcel Hirscher and Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, Hirscher prevailed by just 0.09-seconds over the Norwegian to take the victory in the men’s FIS Ski World Cup season opener in Levi, Finland.

Five Americans started, though none qualified for a second run. 2018 Junior World’s bronze medalist Luke Winters (Gresham, Ore.) was starting in his debut World Cup and was skiing solid and strong, on pace to qualify for the second run before getting low on a left-footer, sliding on his hip, and skiing out.

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