Vlhova dominates 1st World Cup slalom of season. Shiffrin places 4th after training crash

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LEVI, Finland (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin dealt with a bone bruise in her left knee following a recent training crash to finish fourth Saturday in the first women’s World Cup slalom of the season.

The defending overall champion trailed winner Petra Vlhova by 0.42 seconds after the opening run but ultimately finished 1.70 behind the Slovakian skier, who dominated the race by clearly winning both runs.

In an Instagram post the day before the race, Shiffrin shared footage of her fall and said she felt “quite good now” after “she took a fair amount of impact through my left knee” when she straddled a gate and crashed during a slalom practice run.

Shiffrin’s team said she sustained a significant bone bruise on her tibial plateau, but did not hurt her ligaments. She worked on restoring normal movement patterns, and added some skiing through this week.

“I’m lucky (and so very grateful) to have come away with a bone bruise but no other major damage,” said Shiffrin, who won both slaloms here last year on her way to winning the discipline title for the seventh time, in her Instagram post.

Hours after the race, the American said her knee swelled up.

“Today was about 500% higher load than what we’ve been able to train the last week. So it makes sense it’s a little bit tighter now,” Shiffrin said. “But when I was skiing, it felt good. I didn’t feel like I was holding back because of my knee. It wasn’t really a thought in my mind at all.”

However, Shiffrin added she lacked the right timing when racing between the gates.

“It’s been 10 days (since the crash), so the feeling is not locked into my muscles right now. In some ways I felt like I was a little bit searching with my skis, searching for the right line, searching for the right pressure,” she said.

“A week ago we were like getting scans, wondering if I was going to be able to race at all. So, you know, here we are, a race. It felt good. And for me, that’s a huge victory, actually.”

Lena Duerr of Germany was 1.41 behind in second and former slalom world champion Katharina Liensberger placed third for the Austrian’s first podium result in 15 slaloms since January 2022.

Vlhova, who is the Olympic champion in the discipline, became the sixth skier in women’s World Cup history to win 20 career World Cup slaloms. Shiffrin holds the record of 53 slalom wins.

No skier other than the American or Vlhova has won the traditional season-opening slalom in Finnish Lapland since then-overall champion Tina Maze of Slovenia triumphed in 2014.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect such a gap between me and Lena and Katharina. But I feel good. I’m enjoying skiing and I feel confidence,” said Vlhova, now atop the overall standings having started the season by finishing third in a giant slalom in Austria two weeks ago in a race where Shiffrin placed sixth.

Laurence St-Germain, who beat Shiffrin to the slalom world title last February, trailed by 3.57 seconds in the first run and the Canadian skier failed to qualify for the second run.

Katharina Gallhuber, the 2018 Olympic bronze medalist, placed 13th in the Austrian’s first race in more than 600 days following a knee injury.

Another slalom on the same hill is scheduled for Sunday.

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