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Shiffrin left fuming over start delay after Vlhova home win

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Slovakia's Petra Vlhova celebrates on the podium after winning an alpine ski, World Cup women's giant slalom in Jasna, Slovakia, Sunday, March 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Gabriele Facciotti)

JASNA – Mikaela Shiffrin slammed Slovakian race organizers after a women's World Cup giant slalom Sunday, calling them “unprofessional” for making her wait in the start gate before her final run for what she felt was too long.

Holding a slim lead from the opening leg, Shiffrin was ready to start when she had to wait for two minutes while course workers replaced a broken gate.

Finally allowed to go, the American posted only the 11th-fastest time and dropped to third, 0.37 behind the winner, Petra Vlhova of Slovakia.

“It took (two) minutes to fix a gate, that should take 30 seconds,” Shiffrin said. “I just felt like she is a good enough skier to win these races on her own and doesn’t need this unprofessional act from something that she doesn’t have control over, I don’t have control over, but just to say, ‘Oh, she is in the lead, let’s see if we can do something to get into (Shiffrin’s) head.'”

While Shiffrin acknowledged interruptions are a common part of the sport, she said the lengthy delay was not necessary this time.

“It’s one thing if an athlete falls and gets injured, but it’s another thing when it’s fixing a gate and that takes (two) minutes with two people and they can’t find the flag, or I don’t know what was happening,” the American said.

“It was a bit ridiculous and that’s really obvious," she added. “This not a professional way to handle this situation (...) takes away from her performance, too. She can be proud of how she skied but that’s a tough situation.”

Shiffrin also acknowledged that she should “handle these situation better" after her delayed start got to her.

“I was OK, I was just getting mad, that’s something that I can learn from," she said. "I still did a pretty good job on most of my run but just not quite good enough.”

By beating her rival, Vlhova turned the tables on Shiffrin a day after the American had beaten her in the slalom.

Vlhova fell on her back in celebration as soon as first-run leader Shiffrin failed to beat her time.

Vlhova got up and bent over as she fought back tears following the 19th win of her career, but first in a home race on the hill where she regularly trains.

“This is something amazing because everybody who’s watching our sport knows that the last races in giant slalom I was not in good shape. I had (a) small crisis," Vlhova said.

Vlhova finished 10th and 12th in the last two giant slaloms on the World Cup, and 12th at the world championships last month.

“But I trained a lot. I came here to my home, I tried to keep a lot of power inside me,” she said. "In the end, on my home slope, I won. That was my dream.”

Shiffrin had denied Vlhova a home triumph in Saturday’s slalom when she came from behind to beat her Slovakian rival in the final run.

Jasna is not a regular stop on the women’s World Cup circuit. The previous time races were held at the resort in the Low Tatras mountains was in 2016, when Shiffrin also won the slalom.

On Sunday, Alice Robinson of New Zealand climbed from seventh position to finish runner-up, 0.16 off the lead.

Marta Bassino, who won four giant slaloms this season, locked up the discipline title with a race to spare.

The Italian placed fourth to finish ahead of her only remaining challenger, Tessa Worley of France, who was 10th.

The result gave Bassino a lead of 148 points over Worley with only the season-ending GS at the World Cup Finals in Switzerland remaining.

Bassino became the fourth Italian skier to win the GS globe, after Deborah Compagnoni did it in 1997, Denise Karbon in 2008, and Federica Brignone last year.

World champion Lara Gut-Behrami was out of contention for the win following a costly mistake early in her first run and the Swiss skier finished 1.69 behind in ninth.

In the overall standings, Vlhova closed the gap on leader Gut-Behrami to 36 points, with two slaloms in Sweden coming up on Friday and Saturday.

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