Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States notched the 75th World Cup win of her career to end Petra Vlhova’s winning streak in Levi as the women’s FIS Ski World Cup season finally got underway with a thrilling slalom race.
The American was third after the first run, but put in a strong second run to finish ahead of Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson in second and Slovakia’s Vlhova in third.
Germany’s Lena Duerr led the standings after the first run to raise hopes of just a second career victory, but a slow third sector in her second run saw her drop to fourth place.
The start of the season faced major disruption as four consecutive events were cancelled, but action finally got underway at the famous black slope in Finland.
Shiffrin, who is the Overall World Cup holder, got the new season off to a great start with her 75th career win, 48 of which have come in the slalom.
The 27-year-old finished with a time of 1:51.25, jumping two places in the second run to claim her fifth victory in Levi – and earn her the winner’s prize of a local reindeer.
That saw Shiffrin match Olympic champion Vlhova’s record tally of five victories in Finland ahead of a second slalom event on Sunday.
Vlhova won back-to-back races in Levi in 2020 and 2021 and took the slalom World Cup crystal globe last season.
But she finished 0.20 seconds off the pace to sit third, four hundredths of a second behind an impressive Swenn Larsson.
Shiffrin’s victory continues a remarkable run, as no skier other than the American or Vlhova has won this event since Tina Maze of Slovenia in 2014.
Wendy Holdener of Switzerland was fifth, with Slovenia’s Ana Bucik sixth and Sara Hector of Sweden seventh.
Heartbreak for Duerr as she fails to make podium in Levi
Austria’s Katharina Liensberger, the 2021 World Cup slalom winner, could only finish in 11th.
Great Britain’s Charlie Guest got off to a flier with a super first run that put her joint-ninth and on course to match her career best World Cup finish of ninth place.
The Scot got off to a great start in her second run and looked on course to record another strong time, but an error in the final sector sent her off course for a gut-wrenching DNF.