Katharina Liensberger takes the Slalom Crystal Globe home in a fiery battle against Shiffrin and Vlhova for the title. After nine years of title-drought for the Austrians, the 2021 discipline’s World Champion finally put a stop to the curse.
By Daphne Seberich
Katharina Liensberger is the 2021 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Slalom champion. The Austrian skier won for the first time in her career the coveted Slalom Crystal Globe in a fiery title race to two martians of the discipline: Shiffrin and Vlhova.
The Slalom championship was wide open coming into this race, with Katharina Liensberger and Mikaela Shiffrin following closely behind Petra Vlhova in the provisional lead.
Liensberger, although, had a brilliant end to her season. She won for the first time in her career at Cortina’s World Championship’s Slalom event. Soon after, the Austrian was unstoppable. A win in Åre followed swiftly in March before coming to the finals a weekend later in Lenzerheide. She proved to be a step ahead of her competitors yet again, crushing any chances at the title and at the win they might have had. Katharina Liensberger deservingly triumphed at the last race of the 2021 season.
“That I can say I was good enough to win the slalom globe, that is fantastic,” said an overjoyed Liensberger after the race to FIS. “I don’t think I can ask for anything more or that it can get any better.”
American Shiffrin managed to score second place ahead of Swiss Michelle Gisin in third, but both athletes had an abysmal delay towards the dominating leader of the race Liensberger. Over 1.24 and 1.95 seconds divided the duo from the top of the leaderboard.
To kick the finals off, Laurence St. Germain set the bar for the other competitors with a time of 55.07 after the first run. Kristin Lysdahl managed to dethrone the provisional leader by crossing the finish line with 50 hundredths of a second advantage.
The Åre and Cortina 2021 Slalom winner Katharina Liensberger blew it out of the park. Seven-tenths separated her from the other two competitors. Mikaela Shiffrin couldn’t do anything against the Austrian dynamite. Nine-tenths of delay placed her only in third after the first run.
Petra Vlhova’s run was disastrous. 1.84 seconds of delay placed her provisionally last. Lena Dürr and Ana Bucik managed to do worse than the Slovakian skier, scoring respectively the bottom two positions of the standings. The following athletes Chiara Mair, Paula Moltzan and Kristina Riis-Johannessen couldn’t beat Vlhova as well.
The 2021 Junior Slalom World Champion Sophie Mathieu had the chance to debut in the World Cup finals, placing last in the first run. She opened the second leg and finished her attempt with a time of 1:56.66. Katharina Gallhuber took over the leadership of the race with over 3.53 seconds of advantage. The Slovenian Andreja Slokar then beat the Austrian to the best time of the run. She managed to recover over eight positions and beat athletes like Lena Dürr, Chiara Mair and Federica Brignone.
Irene Curtoni descended a World Cup slope for the last time in her career, retiring from competitions in her farewell run in Lenzerheide. The 35-year old, who competed in the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup for thirteen years, scored two remarkable podiums. In 2012 she earned her first career podium in Ofterschwang’s Giant Slalom, where she took third place. Another impressive result was the Parallel Slalom event held in Courchevel, doubling down on her runner-up trophies.
As she was about to end her farewell run, Curtoni straddled a gate right at the finish line and was disqualified from the race. The Italian, although, was content with her performance and, surrounded by her teammates and sister Elena, she said goodbye to professional skiing.
Thanks to only one-hundredth of a second of advantage, Paula Moltzan put an end to Slokar’s comeback. Hers although was cut short by the impressive run of Swede Sara Hector.
Petra Vlhova was racing for the Slalom and Overall Crystal Globe. Although she finished two-hundredths of a second behind the provisional leader, her result secured her the first World Cup title in Slovakia’s history. She managed to break a record for her country and herself.
The Swiss Michelle Gisin then beat Hector by over 1.16 seconds to end Vlhova’s possibilities at the Slalom Crystal Globe. Mikaela Shiffrin took the opportunity of scoring points against the Slovakian by earning the provisional lead of the race while still having a shot at the Slalom championship.
Katharina Liensberger was, although, on another planet. With an incredible advantage of 1.24 seconds against Shiffrin, the Austrian scored her third race win of the year and brought the Slalom Crystal Globe back to her home country after nine years. Austria also breaks the record for most female athletes winning the specialty cup with eight.
Vlhova clinching the Overall Crystal Globe put an end to every title contention, as the last championship discipline event of the season, Sunday’s Giant Slalom, was already in Marta Bassino’s hands.
“This season for me was really difficult. I did a lot of races and it was very long,” said Vlhova to FIS. “But now I can say ‘I did it’. Coming from Slovakia, I don’t have a big team. We’re not a big ski nation, so to bring the Globe home means a lot to me and my country. I think I need time to realize everything, but I look forward to bringing the Globe home and celebrating with my friends and family.”
Nevertheless, the last race of the season will bring a spectacular title race of the 2021 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup to an end. The final Giant Slalom will kick off a long break before coming back to racing in the fall.