World cup skiing races don’t award medals to top three finishers, but in Levi, Finland, the annual winners of the FIS slalom event do get a very special prize: a reindeer.
Mikaela Shiffrin had won in both 2013 and 2016 leading up to Saturday’s slalom world cup opener and she now has a third victory — and reindeer — with her win in 1 minute, 32.61 seconds, 0.58 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Petra Vlhova of Slovakia. Austria’s Bernadette Schild was third with a time of 1:33.40.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist wore bib No. 1 for the race and was in first place after her first run of 45.06 seconds. She put down her second run in 47.55 for the victory.
Shiffin named her two previous reindeer Rudolph and Sven. This time? Mr. Gru, from the movie “Despicable Me.” Reindeer must remain in Finland after the competition.
Shiffrin won gold in slalom at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 and added a gold in women’s giant slalom and silver in combined in 2018. She finished third in the giant slalom in Austria in October to begin the 2018-19 season. The 23-year-old from Vail, Colorado, won her fifth world cup slalom title last season and hopes to win her third overall world cup title this season. Her slalom win Saturday put her in the lead in the overall standings.