Mikaela Shiffrin wins World Cup parallel slalom event

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — Mikaela Shiffrin won a World Cup event for the third time in eight days, beating Petra Vlhova in the head-to-head final of parallel slalom on Sunday.

Shiffrin trailed midway down the course after clipping a gate, but led her Slovakian opponent through the final three gates to win by 0.11 seconds.

The American star’s 48th career World Cup win — fourth on the women’s all-time list — was her third straight after back-to-back victories in the super-G speed discipline Saturday at St. Moritz and last Sunday at Lake Louise, Canada.

“I’m not unbeatable, no,” Shiffrin told Swiss broadcaster RTS after the race. “I was so excited after (Saturday’s win) it was a bit of a challenge to refocus.”

Erin Mielzynski of Collingwood, Ont., placed seventh, the top Canadian of the day.

“Duals are very exciting for the racers and for the spectators,” said Mielzynski. “This is a new format for us and it was hard to know what to expect. It was hard to even get back to the start before our next heat started, and we weren’t sure how long the breaks were between heats.”

Roni Remme, also from Collingwood, missed a gate to finish 14th overall and Laurence St-Germain of St. Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., had to face Shiffrin early, putting her in 22nd.

Only the top 32 skiers qualify to ski the parallel slalom race, and Amelia Smart, 20, was not among them.

Parallel slalom was debuted on the World Cup circuit a year ago in Courchevel. It starts by having a full field of athletes ski in a qualification run, from which the top 32 skiers move on to compete. In this exciting type of race, spectators get the chance to see skiers compete head to head down the mountain and side by side.

In the first leg of the race, each skier gets two runs and the winners of both runs move forward in the competition brackets towards the finals. Canada is showing great promise in this event and was one of the few countries to have three representatives move along in the competition.

Still, Shiffrin does look unbeatable if she stays injury-free chasing a third straight season-long overall title. With 100 more World Cup points Sunday, she has more than double the total of her nearest rival, Michelle Gisin of Switzerland.

Shiffrin will skip the next World Cup meeting — a downhill and super-G at Val Gardena, Italy — to focus on her specialist slalom and giant slalom events on Dec. 21-22 at Courchevel, France.

Vlhova advanced to the final in one of the tightest races, winning her semifinal by 0.02 from three-time Olympic medallist Wendy Holdener of Switzerland.

Holdener took third place, winning the small final against Katharina Liensberger of Austria.

A new parallel racing format began with a morning qualifying race that sent the 32 fastest skiers into afternoon knockout rounds of head-to-head contests.

“This event is a big fight because you’re always next to somebody, and it’s like ‘Am I winning? Am I losing?’” said Shiffrin who wore the No. 1 bib as the fastest qualifier and consistently won in the red lane.

Shiffrin was first paired with the 32nd-fastest racer, Laurence St-Germain of Canada, in a two-leg race. The best combined time advanced to single-run contests in subsequent rounds.

In a round of 32 pairing of Pyeongchang Olympic champions, slalom gold medallist Frida Hansdotter — who was second-fastest behind Shiffrin in qualifying — was eliminated by Holdener, who barely advanced in the morning. Holdener helped Switzerland win the first Olympic title in mixed team parallel racing in February.

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