Vlhova, Shiffrin miss medal podium in women's slalom, won by Austria's Liensberger

Austrian skier Katharina Liensberger won the penultimate women's World Cup slalom Saturday as pre-race favourites Petra Vlhova and Mikaela Shiffrin both failed to make the podium.

Toronto's Ali Nullmeyer places 13th, topping Canadian contingent in Are, Sweden

Saturday's World Cup slalom victory by Austria's Katharina Liensberger, pictured, over favourites Petra Vlhova and Mikaela Shiffrin was her first since ending last season with back-to-back wins. Weeks earlier, Liensberger had posted an upset victory over Vlhova and Shiffrin to win a world title. (Pontus Lundahl/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)

Mikaela Shiffrin and Petra Vlhova are set for a nerve-wrecking duel for the overall title at the World Cup Finals next week after both missed the podium in the penultimate slalom Saturday in Are, Sweden.

The American will take a 56-point lead over the defending champion from Slovakia into the finals, which features one race in each of the four disciplines.

Shiffrin, who is chasing her fourth overall title, came into the weekend with an advantage of 117 points, but already lost 40 of it on Friday when she finished third in a giant slalom won by Vlhova.

"If I feel good on my skiing and good with the preparation, then naturally I feel a bit more confident to push. But sometimes it's working and sometimes it's not," Shiffrin said.

"It's a good point to be at in the season, I think, but it certainly gives me some motivation to try to fix some things in the next races."

On Saturday, Vlhova was second after the opening run but dropped to fourth, while Shiffrin lost five positions in the final run and finished ninth in the race won by Katharina Liensberger of Austria.

Ninth was Shiffrin's worst result in a World Cup slalom since October 2014, apart from three DNFs in this period.

"I felt OK with some of my skiing but never really found a good timing," Shiffrin said.

"The energy is for sure low now, and after last night, too. That race last night took the most energy of any race this season so it was a short time to recover for today's race."

It was the first World Cup slalom in more than six years in which neither Shiffrin nor Vlhova was on the podium. The 53-race run started after a night event in Flachau, Austria, on January 12, 2016, when Vlhova finished sixth while Shiffrin was out nursing a knee injury.

Holdener skips race after crash

Vlhova had won five of the previous seven slaloms this season and had already locked up the slalom title; Shiffrin won the other two events.

Mina Furst Holtmann (1:46.34) was 0.16 seconds behind in second for her third career podium but first in slalom. Michelle Gisin (1:46.41) improved from sixth to place third, trailing Liensberger by 0.23.

Gisin's Swiss teammate Wendy Holdener skipped the race, a day after crashing in a giant slalom.

Toronto's Ali Nullmeyer led a group of four Canadians, clocking 1:47.53. Amelia Smart of Invermere, B.C., Laurence St-Germain of St. Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., and Erin Mielzynski of Collingwood, Ont., followed in 16th, 20th and 28th, respectively.

Liensberger won her first race since ending last season with back-to-back slalom victories, which earned her the discipline title, just weeks after she also upset Vlhova and Shiffrin to take gold at the world championships in Italy.

"I'm feeling so happy because I really did it. And it wasn't easy today, I really had to give it all and push from the first gate until the finish," Liensberger said.

Lena Durr was fastest in the opening run, leading a tight group of six skiers that also included Vlhova and Shiffrin. But the German posted only the 22nd-fastest time in the final run and finished in fifth, 0.34 seconds behind Liensberger.

Durr was aiming to become the first German winner of a women's slalom in nearly 10 years, after Maria Höfl Riesch triumphed in Levi in November 2012.

Durr also led the Olympic slalom race in Beijing after the first run but missed a medal after dropping to fourth.

Anna Swenn Larsson of Sweden was third after the opening run but failed to finish the second run of her home race in Sweden.

With files from CBC Sports

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