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Brilliant Shiffrin seals back-to-back Levi slalom wins

It was another day, another reindeer for Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) on Sunday, as she completed back-to-back Audi FIS World Cup slalom victories in Levi, Finland. 

After taking her fifth Levi title on Saturday – skiing from third position to first – Shiffrin was unstoppable on Sunday, setting the pace with a lightening first run, and calmly seeing off the competition on the second. 

Wendy Holdener (SUI) was second after a stunning second run (+0.28), while FIS World Cup slalom champion Petra Vlhova (SVK) came third (+0.68). 

“I really didn’t expect today, even after the first run, everyone who is racing is so strong right now,” said Shiffrin. “There is a little bit of luck, but I’ve been working really hard on my preparation.

“My coaches have been working like crazy, the whole team. I’ve been pushing to my limit, which was such good preparation.

“It’s never perfect or easy, but in the moments that I needed to be, I was tough. I was a little bit nervous but I think that’s good. Every time I felt a heartbeat, I thought, ‘push harder’.”

Holdener came agonisingly close to grabbing her first ever World Cup slalom title. This was her 30th slalom podium – 15 of which have been in second place, and 15 third. 

She led the field thanks to an aggressive and powerful display, but was not bitter about Shiffin denying her golden opportunity.

“I was happy, Petra {Vlhova] and Lena [Duerr] went behind me, it is awesome to be second,” she said. “The Levi sunset gave me energy to fight for the spot.

“It was so nice, I did so many good turns and had a lot of fun. I’m really happy I could improve from yesterday, and to ski that good.”

Petra Vlhova (SVK) was third for the second consecutive day, and the defending World Cup slalom champion, who had won the previous four races in Levi, didn’t look at her imperious best. 

“I’m quite satisfied with two third places,” said Vlhova. “It could be a little bit better, but we know where we could improve and be faster, so we will try to make it in the next race. I don’t want to say that I am not strong, but last season was different. 

“Mikaela this year is really strong, so if I’m going to beat her, I need to be perfect on both runs. There are still lots of races ahead. I think it will be close all season.”

A calm Shiffrin at times made winning look easy, with her trademark accuracy on the steep sections leading to unbeatable speed on the flatter finishing track.

The win was her 76th on the tour, inching her closer to the records of Linsey Vonn (81 World Cup titles) and Ingemar Stenmark (86). 

Many think she is capable of overtaking them both this season to become the overall most-decorated FIS World Cup skier of all time. 

Next weekend’s events in Killington, another one of her favourite venues, should present a great opportunity to continue her opening streak of success. 

“I love to race in Killington, it’s like a hometown, with an amazing venue and an amazing crowd,” said Shiffrin. “I have a great track record there, but it means I feel pressure. When you win, it gets harder.

“I will work hard and try to ski well, but I have to go there and earn it all over again.”

 
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