Second gold for Liensberger in slalom, Shiffrin takes bronze

·4-min read

Austria's Katharina Liensberger upstaged US rival Mikaela Shiffrin to claim her second gold of the world ski championships by winning the women's slalom title on Saturday.

Liensberger, who has already won parallel gold and giant slalom bronze in Cortina d'Ampezzo, recorded the two fastest runs, in 48.48sec and 51.02sec, for a combined winning time of 1min 39.50sec.

It was an astonishing display of controlled aggression from Liensberger down the steep and direct Druscie piste, sun-kissed for the first run but pitched in large part into shade for the second.

"It's amazing," said the 23-year-old after bagging Team Austria's fifth gold in the Italian Dolomites. "It's just incredible.

"I really gave it all today. I worked so hard for it… It's amazing that it all comes back if you really want something the whole universe does (my guess) something, I think, for you."

"It's amazing to stand on the podium with the two fastest slalom girls. We want to raise our level of skiing every day."

Liensberger, the first Austrian to win the women's world slalom since Marlies Schild in 2011, added that of her treble medal haul, slalom gold was ranked the highest.

"It was so often so near and so close," she said. "I won this race and it means so much to me."

Slovakia's Petra Vlhova, winner of six of the last eight World Cup slaloms, claimed silver at 1.00sec, her second after a first silver in the combined.

"It wasn't easy," she said. "Everybody wants to win and ski fast. But I will leave here with two medals, so I'm happy."

Four-time defending champion Shiffrin took bronze (+1.98) for her fourth medal of these championships, a remarkable return after more than 300 days away from the piste following the sudden death of her father Jeff last year.

Shiffrin's medal means she equals Christl Cranz, who won four golds and a silver racing for Germany in the 1930s, for most medals in the women's slalom.

The American's overall world medal haul now stands at 11, bringing her level with Marielle Goitschel and leaving her behind only Cranz (15) and Sweden's Anja Pearson (13) as female skiers with more medals.

"Every day we're going on the hill and pushing to be at a higher level," said Shiffrin.

"There's not a lot more for me to achieve on paper, but I still feel motivated to ski faster."

Shiffrin added: "Some of the skiing today was inspirational... Four medals is incredible at these world champs, but it's better to see the level of skiing."

- Breathless attack -

Slovenian Andreja Slokar, who sat 17th at 2.33sec after the first run, clocked the second fastest time down the second (51.36) to hold the lead as the numbers ran down.

Outside of the top four, only Slokar's teammate Ana Bucik, Switzerland's Camille Rast, Germany's Lena Duerr and Asa Ando of Japan got within two seconds of Lienseberger's lead first-leg time.

And neither of them troubled the 23-year-old Slokar as all lost valuable time in the mid-section.

Shiffrin started with a 1.05 advantage on the Slovene, but that had fallen to 0.62 midway down the slope and 0.40 into the final third, before the American rebounded to come in temporary first place. Slokar eventually finished fifth.

Eyes turned immediately to two-time former world combined champion Wendy Holdener, but the Swiss racer made a slight mistake coming into the finish area and dropped 0.36sec on Shiffrin, going on to finish fourth.

Then came Vlhova. The 25-year-old Slovak started with a one-second advantage over Shiffrin and maintained that with a wonderful display of rhythmic slalom skiing.

There was baited breath from a crowd drastically reduced in numbers because of Covid-19 restrictions as Liensberger, banging her poles, took to the start hut.

With her long blonde hair hanging loose from her helmet, Liensberger did not hold back, turning the screw from the off to immediately increase her 0.30sec start lead over Vlhova and never relenting in a second breathless run.

"You really have to give 100 percent and just focus on skiing and what you want," the Austrian said.

There was a high rate of attrition down the piste. Of 106 racers from 44 countries in the first run, 40 failed to finish, notably Swiss favourite Michelle Gisin. A further five in the top 30 in the second leg also fell by the wayside.