Shiffrin claims slalom gold after Vlhova crashes out at Levi

Helsinki (AFP) –


American superstar Mikaela Shriffin secured a record-breaking fourth slalom World Cup win at Levi on Saturday, in a dramatic contest which ended when her Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova went flying at the third gate.

Despite a small error at the top of the second run, Shiffrin claimed her first victory of the season with an aggregate time of 1:57.57, comfortably ahead of second-placed Wendy Holdener of Switzerland by 1.78 seconds.

Austria's Katharina Truppe took third place with 1:59.51.

Shiffrin's win at Levi, in Finland, makes her the first Alpine skier to take four World Cup victories at the Arctic Circle resort, breaking the previous record of three held by German Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Austrian Marcel Hirscher.

The contest came to an electrifying end as Shiffrin's rival, Petra Vlhova, who went last because she was leading after the first run, made an uncharacteristic mistake close to the top of the course and tumbled out of the race.

In the first run, Vlhova snatched first place from the Shiffrin with a time of 58.65 seconds. She began her descent slower than favourite Shiffrin, but gained time over the second half of the run to knock 0.13 seconds off the American's pace.

Shiffrin praised the Slovakian's "strong skiing".

"That's tough but she'll be back very fast. I feel a bit lucky with this win but I also feel good with my skiing so I'm happy," Shiffrin said after the second run.

- Fourth reindeer -

Wendy Holdener's second-place brings her tally of slalom podium finishes to 23, which remains the record for most World Cup podiums in a single event without ever standing on the top step.

The win re-establishes Shiffrin's dominance after she was knocked into second place by 17-year-old New Zealand sensation Alice Robinson in the season-opening giant slalom three weeks ago in Soelden, Austria.

Shiffrin's victory takes her closer to eclipsing the career achievements of her countrywoman Lindsey Vonn, who bowed out earlier this year with 82 World Cup victories.

Already a three-time overall champion, Shiffrin has notched 61 World Cup wins and is on track to pass not just Vonn's 82 but the record of 86 set by the Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

After the race Shiffrin was awarded her fourth reindeer -- the traditional winner's trophy which is kept and looked after in Lapland throughout the year. She said she has not yet chosen a name to go with the previous years' Rudolph, Sven and Mr. Gru.

Conditions on the floodlit slope at Levi -- where the sun currently rises for just four hours a day -- were described as 'optimal' by the organisers, despite fog and mist at the top of the descent.