Vlhova leads Shiffrin in 1st run of World Cup slalom in Levi

LEVI, FINLAND (AP) — Petra Vlhova built a slim lead over Mikaela Shiffrin in the opening run of the first women’s World Cup slalom of the season on Saturday.

The Slovakian overall champion finished .11 of a second ahead of the American as the pair seemed set to continue their dominance in the annual event in Finnish Lapland.

No skier other than Vlhova or Shiffrin has won the traditional season-opening slalom since then-overall champion Tina Maze triumphed in 2014. Shiffrin has won it four times, Vlhova three, including both races last year.

“I feel good. I am happy because I am the fastest girl after first run but of course there were some mistakes in the bottom part,” said Vlhova, who skipped a parallel event in Austria last week to prepare for this weekend’s slaloms.

“I will try to improve in the second run. Everything is open,” Vlhova said.

Having dealt with a back issue that hampered her training over the last few weeks, Shiffrin was .36 behind Vlhova at the second checkpoint but the American gained a quarter of a second on the last part of the Levi Black course.

If she wins the race, Shiffrin will match the 32-year-old record for most World Cup victories in a single discipline. Currently on 45 slalom wins, the American is one short of Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark’s best mark in giant slalom.

Andreja Slokar of Slovenia, who won the parallel event last week, was .48 behind in third, followed by Anna Swenn Larsson with .55 to make up in the second leg. The Swede returned from a knee injury to compete in her first World Cup race in 21 months.

The rest of the field had at least seven-tenths of a second to make up, including Austria’s Katharina Liensberger, who was .72 back in sixth.

Liensberger edged Shiffrin and Vlhova to win the World Cup slalom title last season, a few weeks after also winning the world title in the discipline.

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