Teen sensation wins world slalom title

Rising star Mikaela Shiffrin becomes youngest woman in nearly 40 years to win world title as USA continues dominant run.

Mikaela Shiffrin
At just 17 years of age, Shiffrin beat her rivals to give the US ski team its fourth and fifth medal overall at the world championships [Reuters]

US teenage sensation Mikaela Shiffrin was crowned women’s slalom world champion in Schladming, Austria on Saturday.

The 17-year-old – known as the slalom princess – clocked an aggregate time over both runs of 1min 39.85sec to finish first in a nail-biting last women’s race of these championships.

Austria’s Michaela Kirchgasser shocked the home crowd by topping her much-favoured compatriots for second place at 0.22sec, while Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter was third at 0.26sec.

Shiffrin’s win consolidated the US team’s dominant run at these championships, after Ted Ligety’s three gold medals and Julia Mancuso’s super-G bronze.

Incredible form

Despite a couple of small mistakes, the teenager again demonstrated the incredible form which has seen her take three slalom wins this winter, her second season, to top the World Cup rankings in that discipline.

Third after the first run, she put in a blazing second run to take the win. But she had yet to realise her achievement, she said after her victory.

“I don’t know if I ever will. It was crazy, there are so many emotions today.

“I thought I skied solid but probably not to my potential, my legs were tired.

“I was nervous up until I went out of the start… but when I got in the start, I felt alive and ready to race,” said the American, who was competing in her first ever world ski championships.

“It’s been a pretty amazing experience.”

Shiffrin added: “I was thinking so many things. It was one of those times when everything was a blur and that’s when you know it’s good.

“I’ve been taking it day by day and right now I’m just taking it second by second.”

Among the Austrians, defending champion Marlies Schild and 2011 silver medallist Kathrin Zettel had been the favourites to take a medal but Kirchgasser outshone them and screamed with joy when she found out she had won her first medal in a major event.

“I’m so happy. It’s so great. I was standing there thinking I’d be fourth. I didn’t even realise I was second,” she said.

Hansdotter, who was fastest after the first run, was happy with her bronze.

“I did two good runs and I have a medal so I’m satisfied,” said the Swede.

Thrilling duel

The women’s slalom was set up as a duel between Shiffrin and returning slalom queen Schild.

The four-time slalom World Cup winner and Olympic silver medallist finished ninth at 1.58sec but showed she was back on the scene with a combative run in her first competitive race since a knee injury in late December.

The 31-year-old was then feared out for the season but made a surprise comeback for the world championships.

Olympic champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch missed out on a fourth medal at these championships – after super-combined gold and bronzes in the downhill and team event – going out near the bottom of the course even as she had the fastest split times.

Slovenia’s Tina Maze also failed in her bid to improve on her medal haul of one gold and two silvers, coming in fifth.

The closing race of the two-week event will be the men’s slalom on Sunday.

Source: AFP