SPINDLERUV MLYN, Austria (AP) — Petra Vlhova led a women’s World Cup giant slalom by nearly a half-second after the opening run while overall champion Mikaela Shiffrin posted the fourth-fastest time on Friday.
Vlhova lost time when she adjusted her race line early in her run but the Slovakian skier still finished 0.48 seconds ahead of Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany.
Initially a slalom specialist, Vlhova has evolved into a leading GS contender, winning her first World Cup races in the discipline in Semmering and Maribor this season. Vlhova added gold at last month’s world championships, where she and Rebensburg came 1-2.
The rest of the field, led by Federica Brignone of Italy, had more than a second to make up in the final run later Friday.
Returning to the resort where she started her World Cup career at age 15 in 2011, Shiffrin started her run aggressive and led Vlhova by 0.13 at the first split time.
But Shiffrin seemed to struggle for rhythm in the rest of her run and trailed Vlhova by 1.33 in fourth, followed by Eva-Maria Brem of Austria and her closest rival for the GS season title, Tessa Worley of France.
The American holds an 81-point lead over Worley in the discipline standing, while Vlhova is 137 points behind in third.
Shiffrin will lock up her first GS title if she wins the race, or otherwise extends her lead to at least 100 points ahead of the last GS of the season, at the World Cup Finals in Soldeu next week.
It would be the 10th career crystal globe and third of the season for Shiffrin, who has already successfully defended her overall and slalom titles.