YANQING: Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova produced a stunning second leg to win Olympic slalom gold on Wednesday after Mikaela Shiffrin slid out of medal contention with a botched first run.
Vlhova clocked a combined total of 1min 44.98sec over the two runs to edge Austria’s reigning world champion Katharina Liensberger into silver by eight-hundredths of a second, with Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener claiming bronze at 0.12sec.
Shiffrin, as she had done in the giant slalom at these Games, slid out of the first leg of the slalom to blast the field wide open.
After seven of the nine slalom races of the current World Cup season, Vlhova tops the standings ahead of Shiffrin.
The Slovak has six world championships medals to her name but had drawn a blank at the last two Olympics, with a best finish of fifth, and has often had to settle for second best to Shiffrin on the biggest stages.
But on the testing Ice River course at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre north of Beijing, it was Vlhova who held her nerve after finishing eighth fastest in the first run.
The 26-year-old laid down the fastest second run and watched on with increasing nervousness as the seven racers ahead of her failed to match her time.
Sweden’s giant slalom gold medallist Sara Hector was left to rue a straddled gate that led to her disqualification while she was holding a commanding lead coming into the final descent.
Finally, Germany’s Lena Duerr, leader after the first run, eventually came in fourth, at 0.19sec.
The slalom always attracts what the central European press likes to dub the “exotics” and Beijing was no exception.
A total of 51 nations were represented in the 88-strong turnout for the first leg from skiing minnows as diverse as Taiwan, Hungary, Israel, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malaysia, Peru, Thailand and Turkey.
Needless, to say, none were close to making the podium.
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