Slovakian skier Vlhova wins World Cup slalom. Shiffrin straddles gate as teammate Hurt finishes 3rd


KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia (AP) — For a change, the American skier on a slalom podium is not called Mikaela Shiffrin.

American teammate AJ Hurt used a blistering second run to finish third in a women’s World Cup race Sunday, after Shiffrin failed to finish the opening leg.

Racing in falling snow, Slovakian skier Petra Vlhova held on to her first-run lead to win the event.

“It feels amazing,” Hurt said after her first career World Cup podium, adding an understated description of her final run, which she called “good.”

Hurt, wearing bib No. 38, improved from 16th position by posting the best time in the second run, when she was 0.54 seconds faster than even Vlhova.

“I kind of like this snow so I knew I could send it,” said Hurt, who won bronze in slalom at the junior world championships three years ago.

In 18 previous World Cup slalom starts, the Truckee, California native managed to score points on only two occasions, most recently when finishing 25th in a night race in France in December.

Hurt, whose given names are Amelia Josephine, has one top-10 result in other disciplines from her 60 World Cup starts since 2018, after finishing ninth in a giant slalom in Tremblant, Quebec, five weeks ago.

After Sunday’s race, she received praise from Shiffrin, who posted an Instagram story in which she called Hurt’s achievement “one of the most impressive performances I’ve seen in a long time.”

Paula Moltzan was the second American to finish in the top five, trailing Vlhova by 1.23 seconds in fifth place.

Vlhova finished 0.72 seconds ahead of runner-up Lena Duerr of Germany. Hurt was 0.87 behind.

“I’m really happy and proud,” Vlhova said. “It was really tough conditions. Especially the second run was from the first gate to the finish a big fight.”

The last starter, Vlhova battled her way through the gates set by German coach Markus Lenz as she gained time on Duerr in the second run.

“I knew that conditions were going top be hard, so I pushed as much as I can,” said Vlhova, who was loudly cheered by a legion of Slovakian fans.

“When I crossed the finish line and I saw the green light, it was explosion. Because in front of so many Slovakian people, it’s something different to win.”

Vlhova and Shiffrin have now each won three slaloms this season, with the American leading the standings by five points from Vlhova.

Shiffrin also remained in the lead of the overall standings, 207 points ahead of her Slovakian rival.

In the first run, Shiffrin straddled a gate when she trailed Vlhova by 0.47 seconds at the first checkpoint before the American’s left ski went the wrong side of a gate 24 seconds into her run.

It was a rare mishap for Shiffrin, who last straddled a gate in a World Cup race in the second run of a slalom on the same hill in Slovenia in January 2022, a month before the Beijing Olympics.

Shiffrin has been fighting a cold this week and finished in only ninth position in Saturday’s giant slalom. She then skipped the mandatory public bib draw for Sunday’s race.

After skiing out, Shiffrin congratulated Vlhova with a fist bump when she passed the leader’s seat.

Seeking career win 31, Vlhova opened the race with a fast but not error-free effort with the Olympic champion wiping her goggles after finishing.

“I couldn’t see anything from the middle because of snow,” Vlhova said. “First section, last section were OK, but in the middle section I lost a little bit speed and (rhythm). But at the end it’s quite OK.”

Vlhova built a lead of 0.26 seconds over both Duerr and Leona Popovic, who shared second place.

The Croatian skier tumbled and lost a ski when passing the last gate but managed to finish. After the second run, Popovic dropped to 11th.

Duerr remained the only winner other than Shiffrin or Vlhova in the last 13 slaloms after triumphing in a race in the Czech Republic in January 2023.

On Sunday, she got her fourth podium of the season.

“I am super happy. I try not to not think about it too much, try to always be calm and take it easy with the speed I just have now,” Duerr said.

The women’s World Cup next travels to Austria for three days of speed racing in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee starting Friday.


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