Beating the competition in the second run, she took her first title on the mountain above Zagreb, spoke some Croatian and teared up when legendary Janica kostelić placed a crown on her head
Slovakian skier Veronika Velez Zuzulova won the World Cup slalom race on Sljeme peak above Zagreb, her first triumph in the Snow Queen Trophy, Jutarnji List reported on January 3, 2017.
Surrounded by seven thousand spectators, second place went to her national teammate Petra Vlhova, while Czech skier Šarka Strachova was third again on Sljeme, just like in 2007 and 2009.
The victor was very emotional about her win, after it has eluded her constantly in previous years.
In her first statement she spoke in Croatian, and when legendary Croatian skier Janica Kostelić placed a crown on her head, hugged her and exchanged a few sentences, the Slovak skier teared up.
“I have dreamt about this crown and now the dream has come true,” said Zuzulova in Croatian and added in English: “It was a strong fight from start to finish and I am overjoyed that I made it. I am happy not only because of us two Slovaks but also because of Šarka,” said the new Snow Queen.
The race was marked by a large number of drop outs – of the total 67 competitors, 37 completed both runs. American Mikaela Shiffrin, currently the best world slalom skier and leader in the World Cup, dropped out in the first run after a mistake in the middle of the track.
“I wish I could blame something or someone, but it was my fault,” said Shiffrin, who was victorious in the first four slaloms of the season, having won twice in the Snow Queen Trophy in 2013 and 2015.
“The track was quite fast. Usually I am quite good in those conditions, but I made one small wrong move, a ski went by the wrong side of the pole and that’s my mistake, regardless of potential holes or weird light,” added Shiffrin explaining how the mistake came about.
This drop out made it impossible for her to equalize ski greats such as Vreni Schnedier and Janica Kostelić who jointly hold the record of eight consecutive slalom wins in World Cup races. Regardless, the 21-year-old American feels no bitterness.
“This is my favourite track. This will not change because I dropped out. I still love it, love the turns I made, although it did not turn out for the best. This is a great place to ski and compete. The day is still lovely, not for me personally, but I still enjoy being here. Sometimes there is a relief, when something like this happens, as everyone began talking of three consecutive wins in Zagreb, many consecutive wins in slalom… Those are not the reasons why I am in this sport,” concluded with a smile the current leader of the World Cup after losing out on the Snow Queen crown.
Besides her, Swiss Wendy Holdener dropped out in the first run too, third in the total ranking of female slalom skiers.
The only Croatian representative was 19-year-old Leona Popović who started 61st and held out for 15 seconds before she skidded off the track, just like she did two years ago at her Snow Queen debut.
“I am quite disappointed, but these things happen. We are in skiing, drop outs are normal. I was in the back position and the ice simply took over,” said Leona.
In the total World Cup ranking Mikaela Shiffrin is still in lead with 798 points. Second is Swiss Lara Gut with 583, third is Slovenian Ilka Štuhec with 495 points. Gut and Štuhec, specialists in fast disciplines, did not compete in Zagreb.
In the slalom rankings Shiffrin leads with 400, Zuzulova behind her with 390 points.
On Thursday it is the men’s turn in slalom on Sljeme.