Shiffrin Takes Back-To-Back Levi Slalom Wins

It was another day, another reindeer for Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) on Sunday, as she completed back-to-back Audi FIS World Cup slalom victories in Levi, Finland. After taking her fifth Levi title on Saturday – skiing from third position to first – Shiffrin was unstoppable on Sunday, setting the pace with a lightening first run, and calmly seeing off the competition on the second

Shiffrin trailing Lindsey Vonn by six wins for the career women’s record across all disciplines, became the first man or woman to win the first two races of the season since Bode Miller in 2004 (and 2003). The last woman to do so was Austrian Anita Wachter in 1993.

A calm Shiffrin at times made winning look easy, with her trademark accuracy on the steep sections leading to unbeatable speed on the flatter finishing track. The win was her 76th on the tour, inching her closer to the records of Linsey Vonn (81 World Cup titles) and Ingemar Stenmark (86). Many think she is capable of overtaking them both this season to become the overall most-decorated FIS World Cup skier of all time.

Wendy Holdener (SUI) was second after a stunning second run (+0.28), while FIS World Cup slalom champion Petra Vlhova (SVK) came third (+0.68).

“I really didn’t expect today, even after the first run, everyone who is racing is so strong right now,” said Shiffrin. “There is a little bit of luck, but I’ve been working really hard on my preparation.

“My coaches have been working like crazy, the whole team. I’ve been pushing to my limit, which was such good preparation.

“It’s never perfect or easy, but in the moments that I needed to be, I was tough. I was a little bit nervous but I think that’s good. Every time I felt a heartbeat, I thought, ‘push harder’.”

Holdener came agonisingly close to grabbing her first ever World Cup slalom title. This was her 30th slalom podium – 15 of which have been in second place, and 15 third.

She led the field thanks to an aggressive and powerful display, but was not bitter about Shiffin denying her golden opportunity.

“I was happy, Petra {Vlhova] and Lena [Duerr] went behind me, it is awesome to be second,” she said. “The Levi sunset gave me energy to fight for the spot.

“It was so nice, I did so many good turns and had a lot of fun. I’m really happy I could improve from yesterday, and to ski that good.”

Petra Vlhova (SVK) was third for the second consecutive day, and the defending World Cup slalom champion, who had won the previous four races in Levi, didn’t look at her imperious best.

“I’m quite satisfied with two third places,” said Vlhova. “It could be a little bit better, but we know where we could improve and be faster, so we will try to make it in the next race. I don’t want to say that I am not strong, but last season was different.

“Mikaela this year is really strong, so if I’m going to beat her, I need to be perfect on both runs. There are still lots of races ahead. I think it will be close all season.”

Next weekend’s events in Killington, another one of her favourite venues, should present a great opportunity for Shiffrin to continue her opening streak of success.

“I love to race in Killington, it’s like a hometown, with an amazing venue and an amazing crowd,” said Shiffrin. “I have a great track record there, but it means I feel pressure. When you win, it gets harder.

“I will work hard and try to ski well, but I have to go there and earn it all over again.”

Another big result for the  U.S. Alpine Team came from Ava Sunshine. Sunshine made her debut in the World Cup circuit at Levi, skiing into a solid 25th first run, and ending in 21st overall. Sunshine is a previous Junior World Champs speed medalist, making a very strong statement on the circuit with this result.

“I am super excited about my first World Cup scoring points, it's so amazing and so incredible. Not as intense as I thought it would be. It is always a big deal down bottom but up top it's pretty chill, so it was good,” said Sunshine.

On day 2  U.S. Alpine Team athlete Katie Hensien skied well and is closing out the day in 26th place among the fast and strong women's tech field. Coming off a stellar weekend, Ava Sunshine had another amazing race on the technical slalom course. Sunshine ends her first World Cup weekend with two top-30 finishes and her first World Cup points.

Four Canadians Ali Nullmeyer (Toronto, ON), Amelia Smart (Invermere, BC), Kiki Alexander (Calgary, AB) and Laurence St-Germain (Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, QC) took to the slalom course to start the season.

In Sunday’s race, on a chilly, misty morning in the northern most stop on the women’s alpine circuit, a strong second run had St Germain sitting in the leader seat for a handful of skiers before ultimately finishing in 9th place. It’s Laurence’s 12th top 10 finish of her career and third top 10 in Levi. Ali Nullmeyer capped off a strong, consistent weekend, advancing to the second run both days, finishing 14th on Saturday and 17th on Sunday.

After picking up 4 points on Saturday, Smart didn’t qualify for Sunday’s second run, while Alexander had a DNF on Sunday.

In the opening race of the season on Saturday morning, Nullmeyer was the top performing Canadian with a 14th place finish picking up 18 FIS points and Amelia Smart finished 27th. Alexander and St-Germain also raced Saturday, missing out on advancing to the to the 2nd run.

“Super stoked to be back in the top 10 and to put two strong runs together,“ said a joyful St-Germain. “It’s really motivating heading into Killington next week. Killington is my favourite race with my family being there. We have a strong group of girls; we’ve been training fast and I’m excited to see what’s coming next.” - Laurence St-Germain

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