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Petra Vlhova crowned ‘Snow Queen’ as Mikaela Shiffrin takes fourth

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova was crowned “Snow Queen” of Zagreb for the second straight year after claiming the World Cup slalom event as four-time winner Mikaela Shiffrin finished back in fourth.

Vlhova powered down the second of her two runs under the floodlights for a combined time of 1 minute 59.05 seconds, edging out second-placed Katharina Liensberger of Austria by just five hundredths of a second.

Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin, who claimed her first slalom World Cup win in Semmering last week, completed the podium of Sunday’s event.

Shiffrin, who has only recently returned to the circuit after the unexpected death of her father Jeff last year, was seeking her fifth victory at the iconic venue, just outside the Croatian capital, but came up just short.

A fine second run boosted the American’s hopes, but first Gisin then the other podium finishers edged ahead, leaving her 0.27 seconds off the pace.

The “Snow Queen” race, named after Croatia’s four-time Olympic champion Janica Kostelic, went ahead despite last Tuesday’s 6.4 magnitude earthquake, which had its epicenter just 50 kilometers from the Sljeme Mountain site.

Vlhova has consolidated her lead in the overall World Cup and individual slalom standings with her 11th career victory, but acknowledged it had been a close run thing.

“Today was a really tough day and in particular the second round but I found something and pushed more before the finish,” she told Eurosport.

Three-time World Cup overall champion Shiffrin has been concentrating on her favored technical events since her return, claiming her 67th win in the Courchevel giant slalom last month.

Shiffrin won two golds at the last world championships in 2019 but has yet to decide on whether to defend her Super-G crown at next month’s championships in Cortina, Italy, having done little specific training in the speed events.

But with the three podium finishers in Zagreb in fine form and with Shiffrin returning to her best the stage is set for a battle royal for medals in the slalom and giant slalom races at the championships.