Senna vs. Prost, Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, Ali vs. Fraizer, and now, Shiffrin vs. Vlhova. Part of what makes sport so exciting is the intense rivalries between two or more amazing athletes. This weekend (Nov. 20th & 21st), the FIS Alpine World Cup Slalom opener in Finland reminded ski racing fans of who the top dogs in the technical disciplines really are. Under bright floodlights, nearly 1000km (621miles) north of the Finnish capital Helsinki, the resort of Levi sits in the arctic circle and has opened the Slalom season for the past six years.
With four different course sets for two individual races, the slope would provide an exceptional showcase of technical skill. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova took an early lead after the first run, 0.11s ahead of Mikaela Shiffrin. Parallel Giant Slalom winner from Lech / Zuers Andreja Slokar from Slovenia rounded out the top 3 after the first run, coming down nearly half a second behind the leader Vlhova. Minnesota native and 2015 Slalom Junior World Champion Paula Moltzan was the only other American athlete to qualify for the 2nd run. Moltzan came down 18th, 1.63s behind Vlhova. Three of Five Canadians made the 2nd run, with the charge lead by 2019 National Slalom champion Laurence St-Germain who qualified 12th.
Jessica Hilzinger of Germany kicked off the 2nd run, which would ultimately culminate in a shoot-out between Vlhova and Shiffrin. Shiffrin ended the first day in Levi 2nd after Vlhova’s second run would put an additional 0.13s between her and the rest of the field. A slower run from Andreja Slokar allowed Lena Duerr from Germany to round out the podium. Duerr’s result was her first individual world cup podium since a City Event Slalom win in Moscow in 2013. Paula Moltzan was the 13th athlete down the second run but failed to finish.
The second day of racing presented a similar story. Vlhova once again held the lead into the second run, with Mikaela Shiffrin close behind. Swiss star Michelle Gisin would also be in the mix, taking third after the first run. Paula Moltzan would once again be the only other American in the second run, with A. J. Hurt missing out by 18 hundredths of a second in 32nd. Erin Mielzynski from Ontario was the top Canadian after the first run, 1.7s behind Vlhova. An impressive forced recovery from Shiffrin in the second run took pressure off Vlhova, who was the last to start. Despite this, Petra Vlhova would still put down the fastest second run by over a tenth of a second and end the day 0.47s ahead of Shiffrin. For the second day in a row, Lena Duerr put down the 2nd fastest second run and found herself on the 3rd individual podium of her career. Moltzan finished 3.26s behind Vlhova in 24th, and Mielzynski was 2.97s behind in 21st.
Vlhova’s 4th and 5th wins in Levi now puts her in a tie with Mikaela Shiffrin after five races. The Austrian team holds onto their lead in the Nations Cup with Slovenia in 4th, USA in 5th, and Canada in 10th. The women now look towards a Giant Slalom and Slalom showdown in Shiffrin’s backyard of Killington, Vermont, on November 27th (GS) and November 28th (SL).
Full race results and schedules can be found on fis-ski.com