FLACHAU, Austria –Defending World Cup slalom champion Frida Hansdotter of Sweden was back to her best on Tuesday, convincingly winning the last race in the discipline ahead of next month’s world championships.
After failing to reach the podium this season, Hansdotter placed third in Maribor, Slovenia, on Sunday, and added a victory in a night race two days later.
Hansdotter lost almost four tenths of her commanding first-run lead but still finished 0.58 seconds ahead of Nina Loeseth of Norway.
Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin, who was 1.38 seconds behind after the first leg, posted the fastest second-run time to share third place with Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, 0.78 off the lead.
Veronika Velez Zuzulova of Slovakia, Shiffrin’s main rival for the slalom title this season, was fifth.
“I had a pretty good feeling this morning. But for sure a lot of girls are skiing fast,” Hansdotter said after earning her fourth career win.
Two years ago she also won in Flachau, which has the highest prize money on the women’s World Cup, with the winner earning 70,000 euros ($74,000).
“I took the chance in the first run and skied very well. In the second run, I just tried to stay calm and go for it,” said the Swede, who won the slalom title last season when Shiffrin missed five races with a knee injury.
The American, who won five of the previous six slaloms this season, had mixed feelings after the race, calling it “an emotional roller coaster.”
She avoided major mistakes in her first run but still finished well behind Hansdotter in fifth. Then she looked more like her usual self in an attacking second run but didn’t smile or cheer after posting the fastest time.
“I didn’t think that I was going to able to do enough to win the race,” she said. “Coming back in a second run is something that real champions are able to do, like Marcel Hirscher in Schladming when he came back from 25th position and then got second. That’s something that I have never really done.”
Shiffrin said she felt she choked in the first run.
“I felt terrible. I really underperformed. I didn’t do the course justice as it was an amazing slalom course and I didn’t ski it nearly the way I wanted to,” she said. “I didn’t ski fast enough. And that’s pretty much it.”
Shiffrin was on a seven-race winning streak until she failed to finish her first run of the race in Zagreb, Croatia, last week. After going back to the top of the podium in Maribor, she said she wasn’t satisfied with her skiing.
In Tuesday’s race, Shiffrin was 0.39 off the lead at the first split on a course set by American coach Jeff Lackie. She lost more time on Hansdotter in the middle and bottom sections.
“1.38, it’s easy to lose that kind of time if you ski a couple of turns a little bit tentative. And Frida really attacked,” she said.
Shiffrin extended her lead in both the slalom and the overall standings. In the discipline, she leads Velez Zuzulova by 125 points and Holdener by 160 with three races remaining.
Tuesday’s race was the last regular slalom before the world championships but a city event in Stockholm in three weeks also counts toward the slalom standings.
For the overall title, the American leads defending champion Lara Gut by 365 points. The Swiss skier, who rarely competes in slalom races, failed to finish her opening run and didn’t score World Cup points.
The women’s World Cup continues in nearby Altenmarkt-Zauchensee for a downhill and a combined event this weekend.