In stark contrast to Wednesday’s giant slalom, the slalom on Thursday evening in Semmering, Austria, took place under clear skies as American Mikaela Shiffrin won her third race in a row with a combined time of 1:40.06 seconds, 0.64 seconds clear of Slovakian Veronika Velez Zuzulova in second and 1.54 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener in third.
First run action took place in the late afternoon as daylight waned across the mountains. The aggressive surface combined with the tight course set proved a formidable challenge for the field as 24 of the 69 starters failed to finish the opening run. Velez Zuzulova challenged the usually unshakeable Shiffrin in the first run as Shiffrin’s lead was only a slim 0.09 seconds heading into the second run under the lights.
As the lights fully illuminated the slope, second run action delivered the excitement as fast skiing and shake-ups in the standings were on tap as the top 30 took to the course. Although the top three finishers after the first run maintained their positions, Velez Zuzulova looked to have finally unseated Shiffrin from the top of the podium as the American faltered in the first two intervals, losing time and forcing her to fight her way back into contention. With a brilliant bottom section that saw Shiffrin go from being 0.33 seconds down to finishing with a 0.64 second winning margin, the American cemented her claim as Queen of Semmering, taking her third victory at the venue in as many days. The last woman to win three tech races in a three day span was Swiss great Vreni Schneider in 1989.
“I felt like I was fighting, so I’m proud of that,” Shiffrin explained in the finish. “I didn’t even know that was a record, I was just trying to ski fast and have some fun. I’m still searching to have a perfect run and a really fast run, but sometimes it’s better to fight so I did that today and I’m happy. I was trying to think about how Marcel Hirscher or maybe Henrik (Kristoffersen) would ski it. I don’t think I came close to that, but I was trying to channel that energy.”
Velez Zuzulova was understandably disappointed to lose out on a victory so close to the finish, but has faith that her skiing is there and is just waiting for the right time to shine and challenge Shiffrin’s slalom dominance.
“It’s hard,” she admitted. “For sure it’s hard because I try every race but I feel better and better and I hope it will go on the right way and it will come at the right time.”
Echoing The Slovakian, Holdener also feels like she has the speed to beat Shiffrin. The Swiss is planning on a couple of solid training days in Austria before her next chance at a win in Zagreb next week.
“The first run was tougher than the second because it was turnier,” Holdener said. “Yesterday I had the same problems. I had to fight a lot so I was used to it today. At the moment, I need some training days, but when I ski like I can, I can win.”
Apart from Shiffrin’s performance, the rest of the American contingent had a rough day as Resi Stiegler straddled a gate in the first run, Lila Lapanja ran into difficulty early and failed to qualify, and Megan McJames also failed to finish the first run.
Thursday’s race was the last before the New Year as racing action picks back up again in Zagreb, Croatia, for the annual Snow Queen Trophy slalom on Jan. 3.
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Veronika Velez Zuzulova (SVK) – Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Wendy Holdener (SUI) – Head/Head/Head
- Nina Loeseth (NOR) – Rossignol/Lange/Look
- Bernadette Schild (AUT) – Head/Head/Head
- Sarka Strachova (CZE) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Frida Hansdotter (SWE) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Chiara Costazza (ITA) – Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Erin Mielzynski (CAN) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Maren Skjoeld (NOR) – Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|2||5||705287||VELEZ ZUZULOVA Veronika||1984||SVK||50.83||49.87||1:40.70||+0.64||4.61|
|13||40||197319||BAUD MUGNIER Adeline||1992||FRA||53.25||50.10||1:43.35||+3.29||23.67|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|45||425921||HAUGEN Kristine Gjelsten||1992||NOR|