Vlhova keeps winning run going as Shiffrin slowly returns

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Petra Vlhova of Slovakia competes during the first run of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup women’s slalom race at the Levi ski resort in Kittila, Finnish Lapland, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. (Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva via AP)

LEVI, Finland (AP) — With Mikaela Shiffrin working her way back onto the World Cup circuit after 10 months away, Petra Vlhova has kept their joined winning streak in slaloms going once again on Sunday.

While Shiffrin placed fifth, Vlhova held off a challenge from Michelle Gisin to clinch her second win in two days, and fifth straight in the discipline.

All 28 World Cup slaloms since January 2017 have been won by either Shiffrin, with 19 wins, or Vlhova, who has won all the races in the discipline in 2020.

“It was really difficult for me because I was a little bit under pressure, because yesterday I won and today I wanted to confirm,” Vlhova said following her 16th career win.

“I am so, so happy that I can manage myself and put in all my power. In the end, it’s two victories in two days, so that’s amazing.”

Following her back-to-back wins, Vlhova went top of the overall standings with 260 points, well ahead of Gisin with 175 and Shiffrin with 125.

“Today I leave Levi with big confidence,” Vlhova said. “I feel that this year, I have a lot of power, a lot of confidence. For the next races I will try to do the same but it is not easy to take the victory.”

Vlhova and Gisin shared the lead after the opening run, but the World Cup discipline champion from Slovakia beat her Swiss opponent by 0.31 seconds in the final leg.

Katharina Liensberger of Austria was half a second behind in third.

In her second race after a 10-month break, and a day after coming runner-up to Vlhova, Shiffrin missed the podium in a slalom race for the first time in nearly three years.

She had been in the top three of every slalom she competed in since failing to finish an event in Switzerland in January 2018.

On a course set by her coach, Mike Day, Shiffrin struggled in the opening meters of her first run and trailed by nearly four tenths at the first split.

However, the American three-time overall champion matched the leaders’ pace for the remainder of her run and finished 0.37 seconds behind Vlhova and Gisin.

Shiffrin lost more than half a second on Vlhova in her final run and trailed by 0.93 at the end.

The U.S. ski team said Shiffrin was “feeling a bit lethargic” and “still trying to figure out how to manage her energy levels,” a day after her comeback to racing after 300 days away.

Coming into the weekend, the American had not raced since the death of her father, Jeff Shiffrin, in early February. The coronavirus outbreak and a back injury prevented her from an earlier return to the circuit.

Gisin, who is the Olympic champion in the combined event, has yet to win a World Cup race, apart from triumphing with Switzerland in a season-ending team event in 2016.

Gisin was fifth on Saturday, and coming runner-up Sunday marked her ninth podium and best career result in slalom.

Her Swiss teammate, Wendy Holdener, was 0.79 behind in fourth. Holdener has a record 24 top-three results in slalom without winning a race in the discipline.

Federica Brignone, the overall World Cup champion from Italy, was more than three seconds off the lead and finished 24th.

A limited number of spectators were allowed at the race.

The annual event north of the Arctic Circle usually consists of a women’s and a men’s race, but organizers changed the program this year to limit travel and keep both circuits apart.

Next on the World Cup calendar is a parallel event in Austria, with the women’s race on Thursday and the men competing the following day.

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