Petra Vlhova gave her veritable army of traveling Slovakian supporters two victories to celebrate on Sunday as she claimed the slalom win in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, and also secured the 56th Zlata Lisica or “Golden Fox” Trophy awarded to the best competitor among the weekend’s two races. While the Golden Fox was secured once her nearest competitor Wendy Holdener finished behind her in Sunday’s second run, the slalom win looked doubtful until the very final seconds of the race.
On the opening run, Vlhova was unusually conservative at the start and borderline tentative down the steep final pitch. Her momentum lacked its signature pop, and she was visibly disappointed in the finish area as she stood in fourth place and almost a full second behind run leader Anna Swenn-Larsson of Sweden. Norway’s Nina Haver-Loeseth skied the second fastest run of the morning despite appearing somewhat unconvinced by her time at the finish. Holdener, meanwhile, attacked the run with her eyes fast on the target of claiming a career-first win in slalom, but a touch of extra ruggedness pushed her into third at 0.61 seconds from the Swede.
Clear blue skies and temperatures just below freezing at the start of the first run gave way to warming air as the lower pitch took a particular beating later in the first run and throughout the afternoon’s second run. The race was rife with crashes including 18 athletes in the first trip down the Podkoren and an additional four during the second. American Paula Moltzan straddled just after the first intermediate in the morning, ending her day quite early, and her teammate Nina O’Brien was unable to qualify for the second run. University of Vermont alumna Laurence St. Germain of Canada hooked a tip on the final pitch and slid spectacularly down the slope before crashing into the B-net. Thankfully, she was able to ski away without significant injury.
The second run started with great anticipation of either Swenn-Larsson or Holdener claiming their career-first victories in the discipline and Haver-Loeseth returning to the podium for the first time since 2017. But the record books and the hill had a different story in mind.
Austrian Katharina Truppe, whose only World Cup podium result came at this year’s season-opener in Levi, stormed from fifth place into third with a convincing second run practically in her own backyard. And despite a snappy upper half of her second run, Haver-Loeseth struggled down the rutted pitch and dropped back to fourth, just missing out on the elusive podium finish.
“It’s great for me because this is my home ground. I live 20 minutes from here. So it was special because my family, friends, fans are all here. For me, it’s unbelievable … today, it was one of the best days ever” remarked Truppe. “When I saw Petra’s fans, I thought I was in Slovakia because there were so many fans for her. But it’s great to see so many fans of [hers] cheering her in the race.”
Vlhova brought significantly more intensity to the second run and was rewarded with a handsome lead of 0.89 seconds over Truppe. Holdener put on a show of her own and gave maximum effort, but all her exertion still placed her short of Vlhova by 0.24 seconds – good enough to secure her 24th podium in slalom and second top-three finish of the weekend. Still, the result came with mixed emotions for what could have been.
“It was a big fight and I did a mistake in the second run that cost me the win now. It’s a special race because if you see Anna Swenn-Larsson, she skied amazing and would win and have a big margin with the win, so it’s with mixed feeling today,” admitted Holdener. “At the start I told myself all-in, go and try to ski the best you can. And I did, actually. I’m happy with that. But two small mistakes too much. It’s crazy, now – three races, three discipline, and always on the podium. I’m really happy with my overall skiing and I’m happy that I’m healthy here.”
All eyes were on Swenn-Larsson as the runner-up from Flachau made quick work of the upper gates. She built considerably on her lead and was not holding back even as she charged down the final pitch that caused great trouble for so many others. With only a handful of turns left to go, she had amassed an impenetrable 1.17-second lead over Vlhova. When the finish line was right in front of her, she powered off the tails of her skis and high-sided over the front at the entrance to the last hairpin, just four gates away from assured victory.
The crowd collectively gasped. The winners were delayed in celebration.
The Swede eventually rose uninjured and made her way down the slope.
Vlhova was unsure what to make of the situation in the immediate moments to follow, but a win is a win and it added to her season tally.
“I won today and of course I was really lucky because Anna, she was really fast, and if she [didn’t make] the mistake, she [would] win of course. It’s a different victory, but it’s still a victory so I am so happy that I could find something inside me. Because first run, I did really bad. Second run, I tried to push. And in the end I was lucky, but I took the victory and I am so, so happy because I won again in front of like a ‘home’ crowd and it’s amazing,” she said before thanking her fans in the crowd.
For Vlhova, the victory marked her third consecutive slalom win and the first time she was able to accomplish this feat despite collecting eight first-place finishes on the World Cup tour in her career. With Mikaela Shiffrin absent following her father’s unexpected passing, Vlhova also assumed the lead of the slalom standings by 20 points with only three races yet to come.
Although the Americans in the race did not advance to the second run, Erin Mielzynski of Canada led the North American charge with a 14th-place finish followed by Roni Remmi, who is simultaneously completing her senior year at the University of Utah, in 17th. Ali Nullmeyer followed up her 16th-place finish in Flachau with 19th place in Kranjska Gora in only the ninth World Cup start of her career for the first-year Middlebury Panther who graduated from Green Mountain Valley School in Vermont.
Technical racing on the women’s tour will not return until the athletes travel to Ofterschwang, Germany, in three weeks. Speed races will resume in Crans Montana, Switzerland, this upcoming week with two downhill races and one super-G on the schedule.
Top-10, Women’s World Cup slalom, Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Feb. 16, 2020
- Petra Vlhova (SVK): 1:47.56
- Wendy Holdener (SUI): +0.24
- Katharina Truppe (AUT): +0.89
- Nina Haver-Loeseth (NOR): +0.99
- Katharina Liensberger (AUT): +1.34
- Chiara Mair (AUT): +1.90
- Emelie Wikstroem (SWE): +2.32
- Kristin Lysdahl (NOR): +2.43
- Michelle Gisin (SUI): +2.49
- Magdalena Fjaellstroem (SWE): +2.59