Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller, the reigning World Cup champions from the U.S., made auspicious debuts in the unexpected discipline of slalom last weekend during the Levi World Cup slaloms in Levi, Finland.
Vonn, 23, the 5-10, 160-pound reigning overall and downhill queen from Minnesota, captured the first World Cup slalom podium of her career Saturday with a decisive .40-second victory in the opening slalom of the 2008-09 Audi FIS season.
Her 14th World Cup career win came on a Levi slope that resembled the Buck Hill hill where she grew up skiing. Vonn said, "It's an incredible way to start the season. There's no way I could have predicted my first win would be a slalom."
Vonn picked up where she left off in March's World Cup finals at Bormio, Italy. There, she won the second run of slalom to secure the overall World Cup title—the first in 25 years for an American woman. After two technical races, she now holds a nine-point lead for first place overall.
Having placed ninth in the Soelden (Aust.) giant slalom opener Oct. 25, Vonn was prepared to score in slalom. She said, "I trained with the men's World Cup and Europa Cup team in New Zealand over the summer and trained with Erik Schlopy at Copper Mountain just last week."
Miller, 30, also enjoyed slalom success at Levi. Starting 31st Sunday and skiing to third after the first run, he fought through the treacherous hairpin section to win the top split time and capture his 65th World Cup podium with a second-place result.
Current World Cup men's leader Jean-Baptiste Grange of France claimed his fourth World Cup slalom win over Miller, the New Hampshire native seeking his third overall title after wins in 2005 and 2008.
Next for women are the Aspen (Colo.) Winternational giant slalom and slalom races over the Nov. 29-30 Thanksgiving weekend. The same weekend, the men go to Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada for downhill and super giant slalom speed debuts.