Deja Vu In Levi: Vlahova, Shiffrin & Duerr 1,2,3 Again !

It was déjà vu over at the second of two FIS Ski World Cup slalom races in Levi Finland, with Saturday’s podium repeating itself. Two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion Mikaela Shiffrin once again finished in second place, while Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova in first, and Germany’s Lena Duerr in third. American Paula Moltzan also finished in the points, landing in 24th.

The Slovakian skier skied consistently and cleanly for four runs, never made a mistake and above all, managed to keep her concentration in all her turns. The victory earned Vlhova a fifth reindeer, a prize given to the race winner each year, and she named it after her brother, Boris, as "he is always with me and supports me."

Shiffrin had a solid first run, even with a slight bobble in the hairpin heading on to the pitch, trailing Vlhova by a fine of margin once again—18 hundredths of a second. Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin was .36 seconds off the pace in third. 

The second run was an Austrian-set course with more swing but not much tempo—a stark contrast to the American-set first run.  It was down to Shiffrin and Vlhova, in an ongoing rivalry, and today was more of the same between the two. Shiffrin skied a blazing fast top section but got in the backseat and ran into trouble on the pitch, making an acrobatic recovery. She generated speed to the bottom and came down .31 seconds ahead of Duerr. Vlhova had a flawless second run, though, and finished .47 seconds ahead of Shiffrin to take her second win of the weekend and her fourth-straight victory at the venue. 

Swiss Wendy Holdener, who recently returned from some time off due to a double wrist injury sustained while training in the gym, made things exciting with a fast run that would eventually land her just off the podium in fourth place. Duerr took home another third place, grabbing two World Cup podiums in a row and ending Germany’s eight-year drought in the discipline.  The German was 0.78 behind for her third career podium finish and second in a row in slalom.

When asked if she was disappointed following the race, Shiffrin replied, “To be honest, I’m not disappointed with anything...I was pushing, I made a mistake, and we don’t know what would have happened without the mistake, but after that, I pushed even harder.” She continued, “And, I haven’t really done that in a long time. I mean, if I made a mistake like that last season, I would have just—I don’t know—skied to the finish. I skied the pitch the second run really, really strong in with a course that didn’t have a lot of tempo, and some tracks. I’m really excited about it, actually.” 

The second-place finish marks Shiffrin’s 109th career podium in 195 World Cup starts—an astounding 66% podium percentage. In her last 54 World Cup slalom starts, Shiffrin has finished on the podium 50 times (36 wins). In a sport with a plethora of variables, Shiffrin has been able to maintain a mind-blowing level of consistency, bringing podium-level performances to every start gate she enters. 

When asked if she had gained more confidence heading into the HomeLight Killington Cup next weekend, Shiffrin paused to think and replied, “I have a little bit more confidence after feeling that I could push my skiing. It was maybe not a perfect run, but knowing I could still push it harder after a mistake, that’s a really big step. So, maybe a little more confidence headed into Killington, but it’s also a home race, and I want to do well. I have a good record there, so there’s some expectation and pressure there as well. But, it’s also really exciting to race in Killington, so I’m looking forward to it.” 

AJ Hurt narrowly missed qualifying for the second run, while teammate Nina O’Brien got low and late in a combination and did not finish. Lila Lapanja also started but did not qualify for the second run. 

Lena Dürr (GER) placed third as the top three were identical to Saturday's race. The German was 0.78 behind for her third career podium finish and second in a row in slalom.

Moltzan, who straddled in the second run and did not finish on Saturday, threw down a solid time to earn her first World Cup points of the Olympic season in 24th.

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