On a wet and dreary day in Maribor, Slovenia, Mikaela Shiffrin skied through the rain to win her third World Cup slalom of the season, besting Veronika Velez Zuzulova by a large margin of 1.03 seconds. World Championship bronze medalist, Sarka Strachova, rounded out the podium in third, 1.05 second behind.
Shiffrin, fresh off the successful defense of her World Championship slalom title in Colorado last week, carried her momentum into the return to the World Cup. She kept her characteristic quick feet moving and did not let the rain slow her down one bit. Shiffrin, who lives in Vail, Colo., grew up racing primarily in Vermont and claims to enjoy skiing in the rain, and it certainly gave her no trouble today.
“It was really nice rain. I have good goggles, I have to say, so the rain doesn’t bother me so much,” said Shiffrin. “I grew up skiing in the rain.”
Leading by a significant advantage after a clean and crisp first run, Shiffrin expected the course to be rough when starting 30th on run two, but was surprised by how well it held up. She was able to stay loose and athletic in the sections where ruts were forming and stayed ahead of the course in areas where other athletes faltered. She stood strong on her skis and charged aggressively in the challenging conditions to take a commanding win yet again.
“Maribor did an amazing job preparing the hill, and it held up (during second run),” said Shiffrin. “I’m thankful for that. … There’s always little technical things that I can do better, so I was trying to think about that a little this run because I know if I get on my inside ski then it’s easy to ski out on the ruts. I stayed on my outside ski and that’s good.”
Zuzulova has battled to get back into the top group of slalom skiers for most of the year after injuring her knee at the start of the 2014 season. She stormed back from eighth after run one to sneak in front of Strachova by a mere two-hundredths of a second to take second place. It is the second race in a row that she has skied a flawless second run to move up the leaderboard. Last week in Beaver Creek she won the second run but just missed out on a podium, finishing fourth. This time around the clock was on her side.
“For sure the weather was not the best, but I think the conditions were actually really good,” commented Zuzulova. “That helped me get a good result in the first run, starting 23 (second run). It’s a great day for me. Being back on the podium makes me really happy.”
“I was watching Zuzulova’s run,” admitted Shiffrin. “She just keeps killing it the second time and I don’t understand – she (makes it) look so easy.”
Strachova continues to find her speed week after week in slalom this season. After finishing the first run with the second fastest time, Strachova was unable to match the speed of Zuzulova on the bottom portion of the course. After holding close to a three-tenths lead at the final interval, Strachova dropped time to finish on the third step of the podium. Still, it was a result she will gladly take, giving her a second World Cup podium of the year and third podium of the season after earning the bronze medal at World Championships.
“It was a tough race,” said Strachova. “The first run was good and the second, in such conditions, was actually also really good. I made a mistake in the middle part of my second run. But once in the finish and knowing I was going to be on the podium again was a great feeling. I am in a good shape now and the self-confidence is back again.”
The race past first position was incredibly tight. Second through eighth place was separated by only 0.37 seconds. Norwegian Nina Loeseth, who finished on the podium for the first time in her career earlier this season in Zagreb, just missed out on her second by finishing fourth. Erin Mielzynski and Bernadette Schild were sitting in third and fourth, respectively, after run one, but both encountered some trouble in the second runs and dropped back to 13th and 8th. That opened the door for Zuzulova, Loeseth, and Lena Duerr. Duerr finished fifth for the best World Cup slalom result of her career (outside of her victory at a 2013 city event).
Frida Hansdotter came into the race leading the discipline standings over Shiffrin, but had her worst slalom result of the season in ninth. Shiffrin now leads the standings 479-439. Tina Maze is third with 374 points.
“I felt like I really had to attack. I feel best after my races when I put two really good runs down and each run is trying to be better than the last. I did know that I had a little bit of time, so I could be smart and not go crazy because my overall goal is to get the globe this season,” said Shiffrin. “I think it was a little bit smart second run, but I was still pushing it so I could be proud of the overall effort.”
Maze had another disappointing day in front of her hometown fans. Sitting sixth after run one, she looked poised to take the lead away from then-leader Zuzulova with a fast top section. But she struggled on the pitch and crashed on her side after straddling a gate. It was her second DNF in a row.
Despite the back break, Maze still leads the overall standing over Anna Fenninger (did not race) 985-901 as the women head to Bansko, Bulgaria, next weekend for two super G’s and a super combined.
See more photos from this race in our gallery here.
By Hank McKee
- Shiffrin, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Velez Zuzulova, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Strachova, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Loeseth, Volkl/Lange/Marker
- Duerr, Volkl/Fischer
- Holdener, Head/Head/Head
- Zettel, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Schild, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
- Hansdotter, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
- Saefvenberg, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
Women’s World Cup slalom, Maribor, Slovenia, Feb. 22, 2015:
- It is the 24th of 34 races on the women’s World Cup schedule. … The ninth of 11 scheduled slaloms with one cancellation. … It is the 65th World Cup race hosted by Maribor … the 36th slalom. … Tina Maze won the most recent on Jan. 27, 2013.
- It is the 13th career World Cup win for Mikaela Shiffrin. … The 282nd U.S. World Cup win. … It is Shiffrin’s 12th slalom win, a U.S. record. … It is her fifth win of the season including a gold in slalom at the World Championships. … The winning margin is 1.03 seconds. … Top 12 within two seconds. … It is Shiffrin’s first win at Maribor.
- It is the 17th World Cup podium for Veronika Velez Zuzulova (15 in slalom and two in city event parallel slaloms). … It is her first podium of the season.
- It is the 11th career World Cup podium for Sarka Strachova. … her third podium of the season including a bronze medal in slalom at World Championships.
- Erin Mielzynski matches her ninth best career World Cup finish. … It is her fourth best finish of the season. … It is the eighth score of the season for Marie-Michele Gagnon.
- Tina Maze (DNF 2nd in race) leads the World Cup overall standings 985-901 over Anna Fenninger (did not race). … Mikaela Shiffrin is third overall with 750pts. … Lindsey Vonn (did not race) is fourth with 646pts. … Larisa Yurkiw is the top Canadian overall in 30th with 189pts.
- Shiffrin leads the slalom standings 479-449 over Frida Hansdotter (ninth in race). … Maze is third in the slalom standings with 374pts. … Marie-Michele Gagnon is 12th with 141pts.
|2||12||705287||VELEZ ZUZULOVA Veronika||1984||SVK||49.90||50.25||1:40.15||+1.03||7.48|
|Disqualified 2nd run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|