Slovakia’s Petra Vhlova picked up the 2020-2021 World Cup slalom season right where she left off the previous one in Kranjska Gora, on the top of the podium. for the fourth consecutive time. It's the second time Vhlova wins on the Levi Black slope in Finland after her victory in 2017.
The season has officially started, and the rivalry between the two Slalom queens goes hand in hand. Only 18 hundredths of a second divided the Slovakian ski star from the American, Mikaela Shiffrin who made her return to the races after 300 days.
Petra Vlhova commanded both runs with confidence. On a course set by her coach Livio Magoni, the Slovakian also posted the fastest time in the second run and extended her advantage over Shiffrin to 0.18 seconds.
"I tried to take this advantage that my coach set the course, and I did it", Vlhova said. "It wasn’t easy, as it started snowing and also the course was a bit destroyed. But I did it and I am really happy. First victory in the first slalom of the season is always good".
"For me, it’s really important to start very well in each discipline. We were always focused on being perfect because we’ve been here for three weeks. My whole team did a great job and without them, I’m not here so thanks to them", said Vlhova.
Both champions look pleased, Vlhova for getting a win under her belt early, and Shiffrin for looking so strong after so long without racing.
Mikaela Shiffrin (USA), as we all know, missed the end of the season after the sudden death of her father Jeff and then the coronavirus pandemic. She missed the traditional season opener at Solden due to a slight back injury, and she then started her season under the Northern Lights with a second-place that is worth a win.
"I enjoy a second place more than I did ever before (...) because I felt I was pushing and having some good skiing. It was the best I could today. I feel I can be more proud of that than I used to be", said Shiffrin.
Elsewhere, Katharina Liensberger (AUT) took the final spot on the podium, one of four Austrians in the top ten.
"I just wanted to show that I can ski well and that I can ski with my heart", said Liensberger, summarizing her performance. "In the flat section, I noticed during training that I had to get the maximum out of my speed. I hope that tomorrow will be even better. I simply took risks on the steep slopes and pulled through the turns. I managed that very well. You just have to take risks and get the most out of it".
Special mention deserves the performance of Magdalena Egger. The 19-year-old three-time junior world champion in Downhill, Super-G and Combination showed a committed drive and finally came in 19th (+3.14). With starting number 61, she had advanced to 21st place in the first run.
"I succeeded in the upper part, but not the steeper part. It has to get better. I wasn't nervous and had already taken a lot of security with me from qualifying", said the Vorarlberg skier analyzing her successful appearance in what was only her third World Cup race. Egger was also confident about the second race on Sunday: "The track is in great condition, so I can fully start the race again tomorrow".
Slalom specialist Anna Swenn Larsson missed the race as the entire Swedish team quarantined after a COVID-19 test for one of its coaches, Ola Masdal, came back positive.