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Mikaela Shiffrin warms for title duel with Petra Vlhova this week

Mikaela Shiffrin, a three-time overall winner, has a narrow 56-point lead over defending champion Petra Vlhova with a maximum 400 to be won this week.
Credit: AP
United States' Mikaela Shiffrin follows the competition in the finish area of an alpine ski, women's World Cup super-G, in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

COURCHEVEL, France — Warming up to their duel this week for Alpine skiing’s World Cup overall title, Mikaela Shiffrin was faster than Petra Vlhova in downhill training on Monday.

Shiffrin placed third in the opening practice run in the French Alps and Vlhova was more than two seconds slower back in 23rd.

The downhills on Wednesday are the first of the four-race World Cup Finals meeting for women and men to decide the giant crystal globe trophies that are the sport’s most coveted prize.

The women's title is in the balance while the men's is effectively already in the hands of first-time winner Marco Odermatt of Switzerland.

Shiffrin, a three-time overall winner, has a narrow 56-point lead over defending champion Vlhova with a maximum 400 to be won this week.

RELATED: Shiffrin pads World Cup lead in giant slalom won by Worley

Credit: AP
FILE - United States' Mikaela Shiffrin competes during the first run of an alpine ski, World Cup women's slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Shiffrin is hoping to enter all five individual Alpine skiing races at the Beijing Olympics and add to her career total of three Winter Games medals. The 26-year-old American could be the star of the show but she will be challenged by Slovakia's Petra Vlhova and Italy's Sofia Goggia. (AP Photo/Pier Marco Tacca, File)

RELATED: 'You can rise tomorrow and keep going': Shiffrin shares story of resilience at Beijing Olympics

Both have rarely raced downhill this season and neither has a top-15 finish — the level needed to score at the finals. Race winners get 100 points and 16 are awarded for 15th place.

Shiffrin has the stronger track record in super-G that is raced on Thursday, also at Courchevel before moving to nearby Meribel for technical disciplines at the weekend.

Vlhova has been the standout in slalom that is scheduled on Saturday, and locked up that discipline title in January before also taking gold at the Beijing Olympics. The season-ending giant slalom on Sunday is perhaps the toughest discipline to call.

It shapes as the closest points race since 2015 when the gap was just 22 for Anna Veith over Tina Maze — 1,553 to 1,531 — in another contest between a defending champion and a former winner.

Shiffrin has not started a World Cup downhill since Dec. 4 at Lake Louise, Canada. She placed 18th at the Olympics one month ago.

The past two Olympic downhill champions are competing for the season-long discipline title.

Sofia Goggia, the 2018 gold medalist, needs only a top-three finish on Wednesday to seal her third career World Cup trophy in the marquee event.

She holds a 75-point lead over Corinne Suter, the new Olympic champion who was sixth fastest in training on Monday when Goggia was 10th. The practice was won by Romane Miradoli of France.

A second training run is scheduled for Tuesday.

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