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Mikaela Shiffrin falters at finish of slalom while Ted Ligety is back on the podium in giant slalom

Mikaela Shiffrin falters at finish of slalom while Ted Ligety is back on the podium in giant slalom
Mikaela Shiffrin makes her dominating first run in the World Cup slalom competiion at Lenzerheide, Switzerland. on Sunday. (Alain Grosclaude / Agence Zoom / Getty Images)

Mikaela Shiffrin ended her six-race winning streak in World Cup slaloms Sunday when she stunned her rivals by skiing off course at Lenzerheide, Switzerland, with a lead of a full second in sight of the finish.

Shiffrin lost rhythm and balance going into a straight combination with six gates left, handing victory to Petra Vlhova of Slovakia in the last slalom before the Pyeongchang Olympics.

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Originally listed as a “Did Not Finish” by race organizers, Shiffrin hiked back up the hill, paused and passed through the gate before skiing slowly down.

The American star was given 27th place, almost 14 seconds behind Vlhova, in her final World Cup race before going to South Korea for the Olympics. After Shiffrin started 2018 with five straight wins in World Cup events, her winless streak is now six.

Meanwhile, Marcel Hirscher claimed his 55th World Cup victory with a giant slalom win at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where American Ted Ligety earned his first podium finish of the season.

Vlhova looked shocked in the finish area to have her first victory since November, when Shiffrin was runner-up at Levi, Finland, for her only other loss this season.

Vlhova finished 0.10 seconds ahead of Frida Hansdotter of Sweden, and 0.52 clear of third-placed Wendy Holdener of Switzerland.

“I am really sorry for Mikaela,” said Vlhova, who missed the podium in the four previous World Cup slaloms. “I won and I'm really happy because I needed this. I was in crisis a little bit.”

Still, Shiffrin retained her big leads in the World Cup overall and slalom standings. Holdener is second overall and Vlhova second in the slalom standings.

It was the final World Cup slalom before the Feb. 14 medal race at the Pyeongchang Olympics where Shiffrin will defend her title. She is also the reigning world champion and World Cup season-long champion in the discipline she dominates.

Shiffrin already planned to skip a World Cup parallel slalom event in Stockholm on Tuesday and two downhills next weekend at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

It completed a difficult weekend for Shiffrin at Lenzerheide where she enjoyed one of her greatest career days in 2013. Then, at the World Cup finals, a remarkable and fast second run ensured she edged Tina Maze for her first season-long slalom title at age 18.

On Saturday, Shiffrin placed just seventh in a giant slalom that included an especially steep and twisting start to each run.

Shiffrin said Sunday the previous day's race left her “pretty heartbroken” to confront the limits of her technical skills in giant slalom.

“That's a hard thing to stare at straight in the face,” Shiffrin said, speaking after she took a clear lead in the first slalom run. After another cautious start Sunday morning, she raced down the bottom half to be 0.65 faster than second-placed Holdener. Another slalom win — a 34th in World Cups for the Olympic and three-time world champion — seemed assured until a rare mistake took Shiffrin off the podium for the first time in more than a year.

Hirscher, a six-time overall champion from Austria was fastest in both runs for a combined time of 2 minutes 40.18 seconds on the Kandahar course — 1.57 seconds faster than compatriot Manuel Feller and 1.69 quicker than Ted Ligety of the United States. It was Feller's first podium finish.

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Ligety was 0.63 behind Hirscher after the first run but more than a second slower in the second run. Still, Ligety claimed his first podium place since finishing second in a super-G at Beaver Creek, Colo., in December 2015.

“It's really, really difficult to beat Marcel, unless he beats himself,” Ligety said. “You have to ski as fast as you can and hope that's good enough, but it probably won't be if he skis as well as he can.”

Henrik Kristoffersen, Hirscher's closest rival in both the overall and giant slalom standings, finished fourth, 1.83 behind. Hirscher stretched his lead over the Norwegian to 105 points in the discipline standings with his 26th giant slalom victory, and 224 in the overall standings.

“I'm happy to make that step here when it's been a tough couple of years injury-wise,” Ligety said.

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