Mikaela Shiffrin beats Vlhova to win World Cup parallel slalom race


United States’ Mikaela Shiffrin competes during an alpine ski, women’s World Cup parallel slalom in Courchevel, France, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Gabriele Facciotti)

COURCHEVEL, France | Mikaela Shiffrin beat Petra Vlhova of Slovakia in the final to win a World Cup parallel slalom race on Wednesday for the 35th win of her career.

The defending World Cup champion followed up her victory in Tuesday’s giant slalom on the same course to extend her sizeable overall lead this season.

“Petra has been so strong and pushing me hard this season,” Shiffrin said. “It’s cool to have this kind of a fight with her, and for everyone to watch that.”

The 22-year-old American clocked 18.79 seconds, beating Vlhova by .04 seconds for her fourth victory this season, all in different disciplines. The Colorado native has also won a first ever downhill and a slalom, her specialty with 26 career wins.

Shiffrin leads second-place Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany by 291 points overall. Rebensburg did not compete in Wednesday’s event.

The 22-year-old Vlhova, meanwhile, jumped up to fourth overall. She clinched her ninth career podium — including three this season.

Shiffrin was fastest in qualifying, leading the top 32 qualifiers. The race then became a knockout format.

“It was a long day, (I) had to stay focused,” Shiffrin said. “It was a tough fight, the course got a little bit bumpy here and there. ”

Shiffrin easily beat Frenchwoman Coralie Frasse Sombet in the first heat and then eliminated Carmen Thalmann of Austria.

She beat Ricarda Haaser, another Austrian, in the quarterfinal — but almost lost her balance after clipping a gate with her hand — and then defeated Irene Curtoni of Italy in the semifinal.

It was the first time the parallel slalom has featured on the women’s World Cup circuit.

“It’s cool because it gives the lot of the girls who aren’t Top 15 or Top 20 the opportunity to also race,” Shiffrin said. “I think that’s a really good direction to go.”

However, she sees some drawbacks.

“Sometimes it feels a bit rushed and you feel you go before you’re ready, and it’s not always possible to pull out your best performances,” Shiffrin said. “You have to be really consistent and aggressive. The worst thing you can do is to ski too tentatively, in order to make it to the finish. The next-worst thing you can do is be too aggressive.”

Shiffrin was pleasantly surprised to see that her boyfriend, the French giant slalom skier Mathieu Faivre, was able to watch her after recently racing in Italy.

“He just got home from the Alta Badia races, and I wasn’t sure he’d be able to make it,” Shiffrin said. “It was amazing. I got to see him for about 10 seconds at the finish — now I’m excited to go see him again.”

Vlhova won her semifinal against Maren Skjoeld of Norway.

But beating Shiffrin was a different challenge, especially in terms of pressure.

“I want to concentrate only on my line, my start. Sometimes it’s difficult to concentrate because you see Mikaela,” Vlhova said. “It was really close and I think I was a little bit in front of her in the middle.”

Curtoni beat Skjoeld in the small final for third place, her second career podium coming five years after the first in GS.

Shiffrin is the Olympic and three-time world champion in slalom. She was a silver medalist in giant slalom at the worlds last season.

She will be favorite to defend her slalom title at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February, and a leading contender for gold in the GS.

The nations’ team event, which features the similar discipline of parallel slalom, will make its Olympic debut at Pyeongchang.

Shiffrin has not yet said if she will take part in it, since she already has a heavy program.