Slovak Petra Vlhova edged American Mikaela Shiffrin, making her return from Covid-19, for a hat-trick of wins in the women’s World Cup slalom in Zagreb on Tuesday.
Vlhova made the most of wearing the No1 bib on a piste made difficult because of high temperatures, finishing 0.64sec ahead of Shiffrin on the first run.
Shiffrin, who lies atop the overall World Cup standings, knows the Croatian slope well, having won the Snow Queen Trophy there four times previously.
And the 26-year-old, who announced last week that she had contracted coronavirus – spending a period of time in isolation that saw her miss two races in Lienz, Austria – put everything into the second run.
“To ski so well after so much time sat in a room without skiing is good,” she said.
“Some athletes find it hard to come back, I feel lucky I’ve been able to come back quickly.
“I had the best possible scenario for a positive case,” she added.
She temporarily topped the combined times before Vlhova kept her nerve to clock a winning 1min 56.99sec for her 24th World Cup victory and 16th in the slalom. It was also the Slovakian’s fourth victory in five slalom races this season.
Shiffrin was second, 0.50sec adrift, with Austria’s world slalom champion Katharina Liensberger, who also contracted Covid in December, rounding out the podium.
“I just wanted to focus on my skiing to be as clean as possible around the gates,” said Vlhova, whose rivalry with Shiffrin has seen the pair win 37 of the 40 World Cup slalom races held over the last four seasons.
“It was very tough, the conditions were far from perfect. I’m very happy to win here again. It’s not easy to nail down back-to-back victories, I always have pressure.”
Relatively unknown Canadian Ali Nullmeyer, 17th after the first run, clocked the fastest descent on the second time of asking.
Shiffrin now has 830 points in the overall standings, 115pts ahead of Vlhova, whose Zagreb victory saw her leapfrog absent Italian speed specialist Sofia Goggia (657).