Shiffrin doubles up with parallel slalom victory

COURCHEVEL – In-form American Mikaela Shiffrin overcame a blip in the quarter-finals to win the first parallel slalom event on the women’s World Cup circuit on Wednesday.

Racing on a floodlit Emile Allais course in front of a large crowd, the 22-year-old Shiffrin followed up on her giant slalom victory on Tuesday with another World Cup win, her 35th on the circuit. It was yet another display of her all-round skill, Shiffrin having already notched up a first-ever downhill victory in this Olympic year. Having seen off home hope Coralie Frasse Sombet in the first round, three-time world slalom champion and defending Olympic gold medallist Shiffrin easily beat Austrian Carmen Thalmann to move into the quarters.

Another Austrian awaited her there in Ricarda Haaser. A clipped gate by Shiffrin, however, handed her opponent the advantage before the American recovered to win easily, Haaser crashing out in the chaotic rush to the finish line. Italian Irene Curtoni was next up in the semi-finals, and Shiffrin made no mistake, finishing 0.18sec ahead. Her opponent in the final was Petra Vlohva, who had seen off Poland’s Maryna Gasienica-Daniel, German Marina Wallner, Switzerland’s Denise Feierabend and Norwegian Maren Skjoeld.

The 22-year-old Slovak, with three World Cup slalom wins to her name, clocked the fastest winning time of the night, 18.78sec when beating Skjoeld in the semi-final, and she pushed hard in the final. But Shiffrin kept her cool and edged Vlhova by four hundredths of a second on the line to win the high-octane event.”It was a long day, I had to stay focused,” said Shiffrin. “It was a tough fight, the course got a little bit bumpy here and there. “Petra has been so strong and pushing me hard this season. It’s cool to have this kind of a fight with her, and for everyone to watch that.”

The format saw 32 racers initially paired off, competing in two legs for the opening round before moving to a straight elimination run from the last 16. Each of the two courses, one red and one blue, was measured to the nearest millimetre using GPS technology, and each race only lasted about 19 seconds, making for a visually gripping and quickfire spectacle under floodlights.

Shiffrin described the parallel slalom as an interesting dynamic. “I enjoy racing it a lot, it’s fun and interesting to have this different dynamic. We’re not on the courses together normally,” she said.  “But sometimes it feels a bit rushed and you feel you go before you’re ready, and it’s not always possible to pull out your best performances. “You have to be really consistent and aggressive. The worst thing you can do is to ski too tentatively, in order to make it to the finish. The next-worst thing you can do is be too aggressive.”

Curtoni claimed third place after Skjoeld skied out of their race-off. Shiffrin’s victory saw her consolidate her place atop the overall World Cup standings.

She has now amassed 721 points, ahead of Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg in second on 430 and Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather – absent in Courchevel – in third on 374.

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