ÅRE, Sweden – Katharina Liensberger ended Austria’s six-year wait for a women’s World Cup slalom victory on Saturday.

In the last race before the World Cup Finals, Liensberger overtook first-run leader Mikaela Shiffrin with a free-flowing final run, beating the American by 0.72 seconds.

“I felt like flying, it was a flight from top to bottom,” Liensberger said. “I just gave it all. That’s really amazing. If there’s something you love and you put all your energy in it, you can really achieve it.”

Shiffrin, who turned 26 on Saturday, was chasing her 70th career win. She led Liensberger by 0.19 after the opening run, but had lost her advantage by the second split of her final run.

“I knew Liensberger would be pushing very hard,” Shiffrin said. “I tried to push and kind of keep up with the pace, so I can take some good things from it.”

Discipline leader Petra Vlhova, who won Friday’s floodlit slalom on the same course, finished only in eighth following a big mistake in the Slovakian’s opening run.

The result re-opened the fight for the season-long slalom title, as Vlhova had her lead over Liensberger reduced to 22 points, with Shiffrin 37 behind in third. A race win is worth 100 points.

The last race is next Saturday in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

“The only thing you can really expect is that it will be an exciting show,” said Shiffrin, who finished third in Friday’s slalom after she just avoided skiing out following a mistake.

“Kathi and Petra are both very strong,” the American said. “I am not totally out of the fight, which is, after yesterday, a little bit of a surprise.”

Petra Vlhova (SVK).

Vlhova won the title last season, dethroning six-time winner Shiffrin as the American was taking a break from racing following the death of her father.

On Saturday, Vlhova finished the first run 2.95 seconds behind in 27th place, with only the top 30 being allowed to start in the second run.

Vlhova lost her balance after the fifth gate and needed an acrobatic recovery with her left leg up in the air to correctly pass the next gate. She was already 1.97 seconds behind Shiffrin at the first split.

Realistically out of contention for the race win, Vlhova still posted the fastest time in the final run and climbed 19 places.

“I was thinking: OK, nothing to lose, I take a lot of points or I take zero points. So I took a lot of risks,” Vlhova said.

No Austrian woman had won a World Cup slalom since former overall champion Nicole Hosp triumphed in Aspen, Colorado, in November 2014.

However, Liensberger did win gold in slalom at the world championships three weeks ago.

Katharina Liensberger (AUT).

“It’s really incredible for me, but I know what I did for it,” said Liensberger, who missed a slalom podium only once this season.

“I just did my job today and it was good enough. To win my first World Cup race here in Åre is wonderful.”

Liensberger’s winning run Saturday resembled the way she beat Shiffrin and Vlhova in both legs for her dominating victory at the worlds.

Liensberger’s win also marked the first victory for Austria in any women’s World Cup race this season. The team never had a full season without a victory in the World Cup, which started in 1967.

Swiss skier Wendy Holdener finished Saturday’s race 1.65 behind in third, and Shiffrin’s teammate Paula Moltzan finished fifth for her career-best result in slalom.

“I’m really happy with the weekend and super excited to be able to put four clean runs down in a row,” Moltzan said. “It (consistency) is something I have been working really hard on all season. The whole team showed a lot of speed on the first run, and I can promise there are more great things in the near future for the entire team.”

Three Canadians were in the points with Laurence St-Germain leading the way in 11th, to match her finish on Friday. Ali Nullmeyer was 3.33 seconds off the pace in 16th and Erin Mielzynski in 24th and now sits in 15th in the overall slalom standings.

Both Mielzynski and St-Germain have qualified for the World Cup finals in Lenzerheide.

Swiss skier Mélanie Meillard tested positive for COVID-19 after competing in Friday’s race and was quarantining.

Her teammates were cleared to start Saturday after their tests in the early morning hours came back negative.

Women’s World Cup – Slalom – Åre, Sweden – March 13, 2021

6 COMMENTS

  1. This isn’t the same dominant Shiffrin we saw from 2 seasons ago. 2nd run was nowhere close to Liensberger’s attack and a common theme form all her races this season is she hasn’t been able to sustain flow/momentum/attack through the 2nd half of the course especially in 2nd runs. Is it her mindset or fitness or both? Everyone knows she has the technique but she hasn’t really showed that winning mentality she had before. It could be that the best girls have just surpassed her in technique/fitness. We’ll have to wait and see next season to really judge if she’s back or not………..

  2. .72 out, but look at all of the next racers. She’s coming back and remains consistently in the top 3. There has been nothing normal since the beginning of the pandemic a year ago.

  3. For anyone else skiing presently, they’d say what a great year for Mikaela. Ranked 4th overall, 4th in GS and 3rd in slalom as of today. 7 podiums all together including 4 of the last 4 races, plus 4 podiums in the World Championship, including a gold. We just all know about and can’t help comparing it to the past. Next year is the test. It is possible that other racers have just caught up to her. I root for many of them, including Petra and Lara, but Mikaela most of all.

  4. Just like with Tiger. She forced everyone to get better. Tiger could win with his B Game. Just like Mikaela could. Is she as good as she was? No, maybe not. But Petra was closing the gap. And Katharina has been coming on for some time. I watch the races on Peacock and Olympic Channel. The announcers keep making excuses for Mikaela. One thing you hear over and over. On her best day Petra can’t beat Mikaela on her best day. Maybe? But one thing is for sure on Katharina’s best day. She is untouchable. We seen that at the Worlds and at Are. Both times she simply dusted the field.Mikey Out. Oooohhhh Yeah!!!!

  5. This year we haven’t seen that certain “turbo charge” on the last few gates that were Mikaela’s “signature” racing-feature.

    It was always something that made a huge and significant difference in her “win-edge” up until this year; yet the announcers aren’t even mentioning it (to-my-knowledge). And they’re excellent analysts, imo.

    Ya know, where she could be behind-time going into the last 20% of the slalom course and then, unbelievably, just ace the last few gates somehow, gain time, and win.

    You’d think that the absence of this obvious skill-feature of Mikaela’s would be a major point in their analysis/comments.

  6. I believe that Mikaela has tried to take some of the focus and pressure off of herself this year. Obviously things have been exceptionally difficult for her the past year. To the point where she considered retirement. I think she’ll be on a mission next year.

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