ZAGREB, Croatia – Mikaela Shiffrin’s seven-race winning streak in women’s World Cup slaloms came to end Tuesday, leaving the American one short of the record for most consecutive victories in the discipline.
Shiffrin’s rare early exit in the first run allowed Veronika Velez Zuzulova to claim her fifth career win. The Slovak had ended runner-up to Shiffrin in the previous three slaloms.
With a win Tuesday, Shiffrin would have matched the best mark of eight straight victories set by Swiss great Vreni Schneider in 1988-89 and Croatian skier Janica Kostelic in 2000-01. But the Olympic and two-time world champion was quick to consider the positives.
“I was never thinking about the streak in the beginning until people started talking about it,” Shiffrin said shortly after straddling a gate about 25 seconds into her first run. “To be honest it is a bit of a relief because nobody is going to talk about it anymore.”
Never showing much interest in chasing records, Shiffrin still felt sorry about her early exit – though not for herself.
“It’s huge for U.S. ski racing to have somebody who has something like a big streak going on. People start to gain interest,” Shiffrin said. “But for me, I am not doing this for those records. I am doing this for myself. I try to find peace in my own heart. I am on my way there.”
It was the first time in more than four years that Shiffrin failed to finish a slalom race. Her previous DNF came in Semmering, Austria, in December 2012, one week after she had earned her first of 26 career victories.
In total, Shiffrin had won the previous 12 slaloms she competed in, but missed five races because of a knee injury last season.
“It is what it is. Sometimes you don’t ski exactly the way you want to,” Shiffrin said. “I was trying to go forward but I got a little bit tentative in some sections and straddled.”
Velez Zuzulova held on to her first-run lead and beat Petra Vlhova by 0.24 seconds for a Slovak 1-2 finish. Sarka Strachova of the Czech Republic was 0.52 seconds behind in third.
“It was a fight from start to finish. It was my big dream to win this crown. Finally it happened,” Velez Zuzulova said after winning the “Snow Queen Trophy.”
Velez Zuzulova closed the gap on Shiffrin in the slalom standings after five of this season’s nine races to just 10 points.
However, the result didn’t affect Shiffrin’s lead in the overall World Cup standings because her closest competitor, defending champion Lara Gut, usually sits out slaloms. Shiffrin still leads the Swiss skier by 215 points.
Many of the top slalom skiers struggled on the Sljeme hill. Three of the top-seven ranked starters failed to complete their runs as Wendy Holdener of Switzerland and Nina Loeseth of Norway skied out.
Shiffrin, who won the race the last two times it was held in 2013 and 2015, was 0.07 seconds off Velez Zuzulova’s leading time when the mishap occurred.
“Straddling is always your own mistake,” the American said. “Maybe something about the surface, a little bump here and there caught your edge. But in general, I feel like if I am skiing well, there is absolutely no reason I would have straddled. I only have myself to blame. Even with bumpy snow or a little bit of weird sunlight, it is my fault.”
With Shiffrin out, Resi Stiegler became the top American finisher in seventh for her best World Cup result since placing second in a slalom in Ofterschwang, Germany, five years ago. Also, American teammate Megan McJames finished 20th to earn her first career points in the discipline.
The women’s World Cup will continue with a giant slalom and another slalom in Maribor, Slovenia, this weekend.