By ERIC WILLEMSEN
FLACHAU, Austria (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin had the second-best time behind Olympic champion Petra Vlhova in the first run of a night slalom Tuesday as the American goes for a record 83rd win on the women’s World Cup circuit.
Shiffrin, who entered the race tied with fellow American Lindsey Vonn with 82 wins each, is 0.17 seconds behind Vlhova going into the second run.
“I actually think it was a quite a good run. I felt like my skiing was very good everywhere but for some small mistakes, but nothing too crazy so I kept the speed going everywhere,” said Shiffrin, who leads the discipline standings after winning four of the six slaloms so far this season.
Starting first in the opening run, Shiffrin didn’t make any glaring errors on her way down the flood-lit Griessenkar course but Vlhova, who started sixth, knew where to be careful and where to charge more after several other skiers struggled.
“The first run I was pushing hard. I don’t know if that will be enough for the second to take the top step, but it is enough for me to be satisfied,” Shiffrin said. “To be honest, I loved watching (Vlhova) ski this run. I think it was the perfect combination of aggressive and also smart.”
Vlhova, a former overall World Cup champion from Slovakia who is Shiffrin’s biggest rival, is seeking her first win of the season after seven podium finishes.
“On some rolls I took risks, because they were a little bit tricky,” said Vlhova, who was loudly cheered by fans waving Slovakian flags.
“It’s something special, in front of a lot of fans from Slovakia,” she said.
Zrinka Ljutic, an 18-year-old Croatian who has never finished on the podium, was third, 0.58 behind Vlhova.
Lena Duerr of Germany was 0.16 seconds faster than Shiffrin at the final checkpoint before a big mistake over a roll cost her a large chunk of time. Still, Duerr was fourth, 0.96 behind Vlhova.
Mauro Pini, Vlhova’s coach, set the first run.
About 15,000 fans attended the race in the hometown of Hermann Maier, one of Austria’s most successful racers. Marlies Schild, a former Austrian slalom standout and Shiffrin’s biggest idol growing up, was in attendance.
Shiffrin will start next to last in the second run, which starts at 8:45 p.m. local time (12:45 p.m. EST; 1945 GMT).
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