Velez Zuzulova wins the Snow Queen Trophy in Zagreb
Despite battling the flu, Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova broke her second-place curse in Zagreb, Croatia, by being crowned the Snow Queen at the Tuesday evening slalom in grand fashion. After finishing in second for the previous three races, Velez Zuzulova laid down the fastest first run and held the lead in the second for her first victory in the 2016/17 season.
After the first run, an already drained Velez Zuzulova held a 0.39-second lead over Bernadette Schild of Austria. Sarka Strachova of the Czech Republic sat third, at 0.41 back.
“I was very difficult especially because I feel very sick, so it was a really big fight for me. I think I have the flu,” Velez Zuzulova said after the first run.
Current slalom and overall leader Mikaela Shiffrin straddled uncharacteristically in the first run. Two other notable DNFs among the top seven included Wendy Holdener and Nina Loeseth who all failed to complete the first run.
Velez Zuzulova held off challenges by the charging field in the second run, including her fellow compatriot Petra Vlhova who ultimately finished second, 0.24 seconds from the win.
“It was a really nice moment and especially that I got the crown from Janica [Kostelic]. I think this moment I will never forget because I did spend a lot of time with her. When I was young, I was training with her and she was my big idol. So I am really happy and for sure, it’s even more nice the victory.”
In the post-race press conference, Velez Zuzulova revealed that Kostelic lent her a Croatian racing suit for her first World Cup, and she finished inside the top 30. Then and now, the two maintain a special bond.
“After first run, I was really sad because it was not my skiing. I wanted to go full gas, and I’m second and I’m happy, really happy,” said Vlhova of her podium finish. “For us, it’s amazing because we are a small country and we are two girls from Slovakia on the podium: first and second. It’s unbelievable.”
Strachova, meanwhile, held onto the third spot after the second run for her first podium finish of the season at a venue where she had finished in third place twice before.
“It’s a great feeling to be on the podium again, especially here in Zagreb,” Strachova said. “It’s the first race of the new year, and it’s nice to be here on the podium for the third time in the third place, so it’s nice.”
The ladies’ World Cup tour moves on to Maribor, Slovenia, for GS and slalom races on 7-8 January.
Complete results from today’s race are available here.