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'A dream come true': Swenn Larsson wins Soldeu slalom for first solo victory

This time, Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE) didn't have to share her triumph with anyone.

The veteran Swede won her first outright World Cup race in the Sunday slalom in Soldeu, completing her rollercoaster journey this season with an emotional victory in the Pyrenees.

In a dominant performance, Swenn Larsson posted the fastest first-run time and maintained her advantage throughout the second run to hold off rising star Zrinka Ljutic (CRO, +0.35s), with Paula Moltzan (USA, +0.83s) completing the podium.

It was a solo victory a long time in the making for the 32-year-old Swenn Larsson in her 140th World Cup start, with her only previous win being a shared triumph with Wendy Holdener (SUI) in Killington last season.

"It's a dream come true and even if it was so nice to share the first victory with Wendy, it's special to stand on the top by yourself as well," said Swenn Larsson, who collapsed onto the snow in delight after crossing the finish line.

Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE) celebrates her first solo World Cup victory (Agence Zoom)

Even more rewarding for the Swede was that her rise to the top in Andorra came after a difficult start to this season. Swenn Larsson didn't finish higher than 15th in the first four slalom contests and even failed to make the second run in the second race in Levi.

"From not qualifying in Levi to standing on the top (of the podium), it's amazing," she said as she fought back tears in the finish area. "It's a journey and I'm so proud of myself."

Swenn Larsson turned the corner in Lienz after Christmas with a fourth-place finish and posted four top-5 results in the last five slalom races prior to Sunday, rounding into top form just as the slalom field opened up in Soldeu with the absence of Mikalea Shiffrin (USA) and Petra Vlhova (SVK).

"It's sad that two queens are not here but I'm so happy to grab a victory," said Swenn Larsson, who became the first woman other than Shiffrin or Vlhova to win a World Cup slalom in over a year.

The two injured stars were both missing from the same World Cup slalom race for the first time in nearly 13 years, opening up the possibility of a first-time winner, which Ljutic almost became.

"I was hoping for it today, of course, but I have time — it doesn't really matter," said Ljutic, who recently turned 20. "It's so cool to have two podiums in a row."

Zrinka Ljutic (CRO) was surprised to find out that she had skied onto the podium (Agence Zoom)

After skiing from bib No.15 into third place in the first run, Ljutic skied a dynamic top half in the second run and, despite some nervous moments on the lower half, she took the lead to guarantee her third podium of the season.

"I was really surprised when I saw the first place (provisionally) in the finish because I felt all over the place on the last pitch, but I felt like I had some tempo from the upper part, so I was fighting and I'm happy that it paid off," she said.

She moved up a spot when Moltzan couldn't dislodge her one skier later, but the American still managed to do what often eludes her by putting two solid runs together to reach her first podium of the season.

"It's been a season of highs and lows, (I'm) so happy to finally take a step on the podium," she said. "Although we're missing lots of top competitors, I don't think it discounts anything today — the emotions are all there."

Paula Moltzan (USA) celebrates after guaranteeing herself a podium position (Agence Zoom)

As they are for Swenn Larsson, who will be able to savour her victory during the speed-heavy schedule for the remainder of the month before resuming her season in Sweden in early March.

"Are is the best place on earth and I can't wait to race at home," she said.

Click here for full results from Sunday's race.

 
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