Vlhova beats US skier Moltzan to win 3rd race in 6 days

·3 min read

LECH-ZUERS, Austria (AP) -- Petra Vlhova won her third World Cup race in six days Thursday, beating unheralded Paula Moltzan of the United States in a floodlit parallel event.

Coming off two straight slalom wins in Finland last weekend, Vlhova won the first run of the final against Moltzan by 0.21 seconds. The American seemed to have made up the deficit in the deciding run on the faster blue course but she crashed four gates short of the finish.

''Every run was like a final. The girls are really fast. But I am here and I won. It's something amazing for me,'' Vlhova said.

It was Moltzan's first career podium on the World Cup, less than six weeks after she earned her first top 10 at the season-opening giant slalom in Austria.

''I was just hoping for a top 30 today,'' Moltzan said.

Her American teammate Mikaela Shiffrin, who returned from her 10-month break from racing with second and fifth-place finishes in Finland last weekend, skipped the event.

The three-time overall champion preferred to train for upcoming super-G races and giant slaloms. Limited in her options by the pandemic and a back injury, Shiffrin had only trained slalom recently.

Former overall champion Lara Gut-Behrami, who was the fastest in qualification earlier Thursday, finished third after beating Sara Hector in the small final.

Vlhova extended her lead in the overall standings. The World Cup slalom champion from Slovakia was on the podium in all four races so far, having finished third in the season-opening giant slalom in October.

However, she had to overcome a scare in her round-of-16 duel with Adriana Jelinkova.

Vlhova lost the first leg against the Czech-born Dutch racer by 0.16 seconds, before winning the second by 0.20.

In the next round, Vlhova also had to come from behind after losing the first run against Federica Brignone, the overall World Cup champion from Italy, who finished seventh in the event.

''I was all the time focused on each run. I didn't think too much ahead,'' Vlhova said. ''In the end it's victory so it's a good day for me.''

In the absence of Shiffrin, who has 66 World Cup wins, Moltzan came close to her first.

Moltzan grew up in Minnesota and trained on the same slope, Buck Hill, as retired standout Lindsey Vonn a decade earlier.

Moltzan earned her first World Cup points in 2015 but was later dropped off the team. She went to the University of Vermont in 2017 but rejoined the World Cup in 2018-19 after two years away.

After qualifying in fifth, Moltzan beat the likes of Marta Bassino, who won the season opener last month, by 0.08 in the quarterfinals and Gut-Behrami by 0.28 in the semifinals.

Thursday's event had a knockout format and saw two competitors race side-by-side on identical, shortened giant slalom courses, with run times just over 23 seconds.

All rounds were contested over two legs, with skiers having one run on each course and the shortest aggregate time determining the winner.

To keep the event within a TV friendly time frame, only 16 starters were allowed.

Some of the pre-race favorites, including Wendy Holdener, Alice Robinson, Sofia Goggia and Tessa Worley, were eliminated earlier in the qualification runs, necessary to reduce the field of 68.

Kristina Riss-Johannessen posted the fastest time in the first qualifying run but the Norwegian failed to finish her second.

Michelle Gisin, who was runner-up to Vlhova in the overall standings, opted not to race in order to focus on training, with two super-G races in St.-Moritz in her native Switzerland coming up next.


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