As skier after skier found themselves unable to deal with the lower section, all eyes turned to a top-five featuring Wendy Holdener, a two-time winner this season, Shiffrin, Swedish veteran Anna Swenn Larsson plus Popovic and Vlhova.
First Holdener, one of the modern era’s great technical practitioners, went and a series of mistakes further underlined the difficulty. Up stepped Shiffrin. A morning error just before the finish had left her in fourth but the all-time most successful World Cup slalom skier was in the mood, producing a typically thrilling charge.
The challenge had been laid down and it proved too much for Swenn Larsson, who straddled a gate and let out a roar of frustration.
The noise was very different from Popovic. The 25-year-old Croatian had started 65 times on the World Cup tour but never before had she finished on the podium. Committed from the gate, she tore down the course, mastered the pitch that caught so many out and went past Shiffrin – not a bad scalp for your first podium.
Finally, up stepped Vlhova. One of the few final skiers to make an error on the flat top section, she was down at the third split but in the true style of a champion racer, Vlhova pulled it back and grabbed her second win of the season by 0.43 seconds. She ends third in the standings, with Holdener doing enough to hold on to second.
“I am super happy to finish the season like this,” the Slovakian said simply.
For Popovic, it is party time.
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