Petra Vlhova held on to her opening-run lead to beat Mikaela Shiffrin on Saturday in a women’s World Cup slalom that was the American’s first race in nearly 10 months.
On a course set by her coach Livio Magoni, Vlhova also posted the fastest time in the second run and extended her advantage over Shiffrin to 0.18 seconds in Levi, Finland.
Austria’s Katharina Liensberger was 0.57 behind in third, while the rest of the field, led by Swiss racer Wendy Holdener, was at least 1.35 off the lead.
Shiffrin hadn’t competed since January, as her previous season ended prematurely after the death of her father, Jeff Shiffrin, followed by the cancellation of the season-ending races amid the coronavirus outbreak. Then, she sat out the first race of the new season in Austria in October with a back injury.
“It’s kind of crazy to be back after a very long time and everything,” Shiffrin said after her opening run. “It’s pretty amazing and I am just really happy to be here.”
Wearing bib No. 1, Shiffrin had opened the race in Finnish Lapland with an error-free run.
‘Nothing’s changed but everything’s changed’
Vlhova trailed Shiffrin by 0.13 at the first split but was ahead of the American at all following check points before finishing 0.15 ahead.
In the final run, Vlhova initially extended her lead to 0.52 but lost over three tenths as she failed to match Shiffrin’s pace in the flat finish section.
WATCH | Shiffrin’s historic World Cup slalom in 2019 in Levi, Finland:
In a streak that started in January 2017, the last 27 World Cup slaloms have all been won by either Shiffrin, with 19 wins, or Vlhova.
Vlhova won the season-long slalom title last year, edging Shiffrin by 20 points, after the American had won it six times in the previous seven seasons.
The pair continued their dominance in Saturday’s race.
“Nothing’s changed, but also everything’s changed,” Shiffrin said. “But it’s really fun to be here, to see everybody skiing. It’s fun to watch and for me it was fun to do.”
Limited number of fans allowed at race
Federica Brignone, who ended Shiffrin’s three-year reign as overall champion last season, was 1.61 behind after the opening run but failed to finish her second and didn’t score World Cup points.
Italian teammate Marta Bassino, who won the season-opener last month, finished more than three seconds behind in 18th.
Slalom specialist Anna Swenn Larsson missed the race as the entire Swedish team quarantined after a COVID-19 test for one of its coaches came back positive.
A limited number of spectators were allowed at the race.
Another women’s slalom is scheduled for Sunday.