Former junior world champion Petra Vlhova of Slovakia took advantage of Mikaela Shiffrin’s absence to win the first World Cup race of her career Sunday by taking a slalom in Are, Sweden.
The 20-year-old Vlhova added to her surprising first-run lead to win by more than half a second over home
Hansdotter moved up from fifth after the opening leg to finish 0.59 seconds behind.
Nina Loeseth of Norway dropped from second after the morning run to place third, 0.65 behind.
Shiffrin, the Olympic and two-time world champion, flew home to the United States for tests on her right knee after crashing while warming up for Saturday’s giant slalom race. The American had won the last five slalom races stretching back to last season.
Overall World Cup leader Lindsey Vonn also sat out, as she no longer races slalom. Vonn won Saturday’s giant slalom for her fourth consecutive victory.
Hansdotter moved 20 points ahead of Shiffrin atop the slalom standings and Vlhova jumped up to third, 60 points behind.
One of Sweden’s more popular athletes, Hansdotter finished second behind Shiffrin in the season-long World Cup slalom standings for the last two years.
Vlhova won the slalom at the 2014 world junior championships but had never finished better than seventh on the World Cup circuit — although that result came in Aspen, Colorado, last month.
Only 23rd on the slalom starting list standings, she started with the No. 19 bib.
When Vlhova finished her second run, she placed her hands on her head in clear disbelief then collapsed to the snow in joy.
Hansdotter and Loeseth walked over to offer congratulatory pats while Vlhova remained lying down on the snow — and coaches of other teams cheered at the arrival of a potential new contender on the friendly circuit known as the “white circus.”
Austrian veteran Michaela Kirchgasser finished fourth and Wendy Holdener of Switzerland was fifth.
Overall contender Lara Gut of Switzerland placed 35th in the first run and did not qualify for the second leg.
The top American finisher was Resi Stiegler in 18th. The four Canadian skiers in the field did not qualify for the second run.
With little sun at the resort located near the Arctic Circle, artificial lights were turned on to enable skiers to see the course.
The women’s circuit heads down to the French Alps for races in Val d’Isere and Courchevel next weekend.
photos Janos Schmidt