Vlhova completes Lapland slalom double as 'grateful' Shiffrin finishes fifth

Levi (Finland) (AFP) –


Slovakian skier Petra Vlhova made it a slalom double at Sunday's World Cup event in Levi, Finland, as Mikaela Shiffrin said she was pleased with her performance despite missing out on a podium in the discipline for the first time in nearly three years.

The 25-year-old Vlhova, who also won Saturday's slalom in Lapland, shared top spot with Swiss skier Michelle Gisin after the first run but put in the second-fastest run on the second leg to post a combined time of 1min 49.5secs to claim her 16th World Cup victory.

"Today was difficult with pressure from yesterday," said Vlhova. "But I confirmed my form, my power, I'm very happy. I pushed as hard as I could, it was tight."

It was Vlhova's fifth consecutive win in the discipline.

Since the World Cup event in Levi two years ago, the Slovakian, who won the slalom crystal globe last season, has competed in 17 slaloms, winning six and finishing on the podium a remarkable 15 times.

Gisin did enough to claim second, finishing 0.31secs behind Vlhova, while Austrian Katharina Liensberger was quickest on the second run and collected her second third-place of the weekend.

The three-time overall World Cup winner Shiffrin marked her return to competition after a 300-day absence following her father's untimely death in a domestic accident.

In the Finnish fog she came second on Saturday, lay fourth after the first run Sunday but eventually slipped to fifth, finishing behind another Swiss Wendy Holdener.

- 'Incredible' to be back -

It was the first time she has missed the podium in a World Cup slalom race since Lenzerheide in January 2018, but she said it was not a disappointment.

"It's incredible to be here," Shiffrin told the US ski team's website.

"I had two really solid races and it was an incredible weekend. I feel really grateful that I'm able to do these races and I was able to participate again."

The weekend north of the Arctic Circle still marks a successful comeback for the American after 10 months out of action.

Shiffrin was all set for a fourth consecutive overall World Cup title when she ended last season after her father fell at home and died.

Thoughts of a return last season were scotched by the coronavirus and a bad back then forced the 25-year-old to skip the 2020/21 season-opener in Soelden.

Shiffrin was accompanied by her mother in Finland.

"My entire career I wouldn't be here without her, especially right now and this year," she said.

"She's my best friend and my mom and my favourite coach -- and I have a lot of really great coaches."

Vlhova leads the overall standings, 85 points ahead of Gisin. Shiffrin is a further 50 points back in third.

Last season's overall champion, the Italian Federica Brignone, who is not a slalom specialist, came in 24th after failing to finish on Saturday.

Anna Swenn-Larsson, ranked fifth in the world in the event, was among the Swedish skiers who were not permitted to compete by Finnish authorities after their coach tested positive for coronavirus.