ZAGREB, Croatia — Slovakia claimed this year’s installment of the annual Snow Queen Trophy slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, on Tuesday night as veteran Veronika Velez Zuzulova claimed her first victory of the season with a combined time of 2:02.53 seconds. Hot on her heels in second place was her fellow countrywoman Petra Vlhova, a slim 0.24 seconds back. Rounding out the podium in third was the Czech Republic’s Sarka Strachova, 0.52 seconds back.
The injected slope received some overnight snow and although organizers did their best to clear the track, bumpy and at times inconsistent conditions proved to be the deciding factor in the first run as many of the early favorites failed to finish, including American Mikaela Shiffrin.
“I straddled,” explained Shiffrin. “It was a little bit of a bumpy surface, and I didn’t give my feet enough room and my ski went on the wrong side of the gate. I knew it right away, and it’s a terrible feeling.”
Velez Zuzulova held the lead after the difficult first run and managed to fend off a strong challenge by Vlhova in the second for her first win of the season after three consecutive second-place finishes. This victory was made extra special by the presence of skiing great Janica Kostelic, who was Velez Zuzulova’s childhood idol.
“It was a tough race,” she said. “The first run, I had a really bad feeling when I arrived down. I was thinking that I will be really bad. After I saw the other girls, I saw that it was tough for everybody. Second run, I was ready to attack, and it was really not easy. I had some small mistakes, but I was trying to fight ’til the end and finally, it was good. For sure, it was a really nice moment and especially that I got the crown from Janica. I think this moment I will never forget because I did spend a lot of time with her; when I was young, I was training with her and she was my big idol, so I am really happy and for sure, it’s even more nice the victory. ”
Vlhova, although unhappy with her first run performance, recognized the significance of two skiers from the same small country finding the podium and is looking forward to what the future has in store for her and her compatriots.
“I am really happy because finally I did a good run,” Vlhova said. “After first run, I was really sad because it was not my skiing. I wanted to go full gas and I’m second and I’m happy. Really happy. For us, it’s amazing because we are a small country and we are two girls from Slovakia on the podium; first and second. It’s unbelievable.”
It was Strachova’s first podium appearance of the season, which will no doubt bode well for her confidence heading into the remainder of the season. It also marked her third time on the podium at this venue, having earned her other top-3 results in 2007 and 2009.
“It’s a great feeling to be on the podium again, especially here in Zagreb.” she said. “It’s the first race of the new year, and it’s nice to be here on the podium for the third time in the third place, so it’s nice.”
For the Americans, despite Shiffrin’s untimely exit, the day was salvaged by the performances of Resi Stiegler in seventh and Megan McJames scoring her career first World Cup slalom points in 20th. Lila Lapanja joined Shiffrin as a first run DNF.
“I’m just really happy,” Stiegler said in the finish. “I had a DNF in Semmering, and I was a little nervous coming into this race and I wanted to have a good one. I’ve been trying to get back in the top ten so I’m pretty happy with this result.”
Her fellow American–an independent athlete–was glad she decided to visit Croatia this year.
“I’m super excited,” added McJames. “I’ve been watching Zagreb on TV for the last ten years and I’ve always wanted to race and it’s never been possible, so this year I decided I was going and here I am and I’m super excited that this was my first slalom points. Amazing.”
Shiffrin still leads the World Cup slalom standings by 10 points over Velez Zuzulova. The American also continues to lead in the overall standings with a total of 798 points, more than 200 ahead of Switzerland’s Lara Gut.
The women’s tour now heads to Maribor, Slovenia, for giant slalom and slalom races Jan 7 and 8.
Fans can stay up to date on World Cup by downloading the U.S. Ski Team – Ski Racing app for iOS and Android.
- Veronika Velez Zuzulova (SVK) – Saolmon/Salomon/Salomon
- Petra Vlhova (SVK) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Sarka Strachova (CZE) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Frida Hansdotter (SWE) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Bernadette Schild (AUT) – Head/Head/Head
- Marie-Michele Gagnon (CAN) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Resi Stiegler (USA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Chiara Costazza (ITA) – Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Katharina Truppe (AUT) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Christina Geiger (GER) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|1||1||705287||VELEZ ZUZULOVA Veronika||1984||SVK||1:00.40||1:02.13||2:02.53||0.00|
|Disqualified 2nd 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|
|28||197319||BAUD MUGNIER Adeline||1992||FRA|