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Mikaela Shiffrin wins seventh straight women’s World Cup slalom

Mikaela Shiffrin wins seventh straight women’s World Cup slalom
Mikaela Shiffrin heads for the podium after winning the FIS women's World Cup slalom outside Zagreb, Croatia, on Jan. 5. (Denis Lovrovic / AFP/Getty Images)

Mikaela Shiffrin dominated the first women’s World Cup slalom of 2019 on Saturday to match her personal best winning streak in the discipline with her seventh straight victory.

The American two-time overall champion built on a big first-run lead of more than a second to beat Petra Vlhova of Slovakia by 1.25 seconds on the icy Crveni Spust course. Wendy Holdener of Switzerland was 1.75 seconds behind in third.

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It was Shiffrin’s fourth triumph in the race on the outskirts of Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, after winning it in 2013, 2015 and last year.

“It’s a great atmosphere and it’s a really great track,” Shiffrin said about the Sljeme hill. “It’s the perfect track to be aggressive. I just tried to do my best and the surface was perfect, so it was easier to be really aggressive.”

Shiffrin has won 12 of the last 13, and 28 of the last 34 World Cup slaloms she competed in.

Last week, the American set the all-time women’s World Cup record of 36 slalom victories. Saturday’s win leaves her three short of Ingemar Stenmark’s total of 40. The Swedish great is the only skier to have won more races than Shiffrin in the discipline.

At a night event in Austria on Tuesday, Shiffrin can match the all-time record of eight consecutive slalom wins, set by Vreni Schneider of Switzerland in 1989 and repeated by Janica Kostelic of Croatia in 2001.

“I am not sure, I haven’t had a lot of trainings,” Shiffrin said about her winning streak. “I’ve had a good feeling and I tried to go with that. I know how to do it.”

In all five classic slalom races this season Shiffrin and Vlhova have finished 1-2, but the Slovakian turned the tables in a parallel event in Oslo on New Year’s Day, when she beat her rival in the final.

Four days later, however, Shiffrin won in impressive style.

She was challenged by a furious final run of Vlhova, who posted the fastest second-run time on a course set by her coach, Livio Magoni. The Slovakian is the only skier besides Shiffrin to have won a women’s World Cup slalom since the start of last season.

Carrying a lead of 1.34 seconds over Vlhova from the opening run, Shiffrin started fast in her final run but briefly lost control, a mistake that reduced her advantage by a half-second.

Shiffrin quickly regained her rhythm and, even though it looked like she avoided taking further risks, she extended her lead again to well over a second.

The American had already awed her rivals by taking a big opening-run lead, as she used an attacking yet flawless run to finish more than a second ahead of her nearest competitors.

Racing sixth, Shiffrin crushed the times of earlier starters, and beat then-leader Holdener by 1.15 seconds.

Sitting in the leader box, the Swiss skier looked to the video wall with a smile of disbelief and a brief shake of the head when Shiffrin crossed the finish.

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