U.S. teen takes home slalom in snow, rain
BORMIO, Italy — American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin fought through snow, rain and deep ruts to win her second World Cup slalom of the season Sunday, displaying her ability to deal with all types of conditions a month before the Sochi Olympics.
The 18-year-old Shiffrin led by 0.03 seconds after the opening run and ending up winning by 0.13 ahead of Maria Pietilae-Holmner of Sweden for the sixth victory of her career.
"I was really psyched to win again," said Shiffrin, who was 12th and second in her previous two slaloms. "It's been a fight all season and I feel like, if I'm not perfectly ready, then the win goes to somebody else. So I was really trying to prepare myself and be ready to go today no matter what the conditions or the visibility."
Nastasia Noens of France moved up from 13th after the first run to finish third, 0.62 behind.
Shiffrin was only 0.01 ahead of Pietilae-Holmner at the final checkpoint but she excelled on the steep finishing gates to add to her lead.
Conditions were difficult with snow falling on the top part of the course and rain at the bottom in the opening run, with spectators holding up umbrellas. During the second run, it was snowing at both the top and bottom.
"It's always a big confidence booster to have good skiing in different conditions," Shiffrin said. "I never wanted to be a racer who could only win on hard snow or just soft snow, or just a steep pitch or just a flat. I want to be really good in all-around conditions and getting a win today has given me a lot of confidence that I can ski out of ruts in the second run."
Overall World Cup leader Maria Hoefl-Riesch stood fifth after the opening run but lost control shortly into her second trip down and skied off course.
Austrian specialist Marlies Schild recovered from a poor opening run — she was 15th — to finish sixth, with her younger sister Bernadette Schild placing fourth and Marie-Michele Gagnon of Canada fifth.
Marlies Schild won the past two races to set the record for most World Cup slalom victories with 35 and trailed Shiffrin by just two points in the discipline standings entering the race.
Shiffrin now leads by 62 points, with four more slaloms left to defend her season-long title from last year, when she also won the gold medal in the slalom at the world championships in Schladming, Austria.
It was Shiffrin's third consecutive podium result after placing third and second in a giant slalom and slalom last weekend in Lienz, Austria. Her other win this season came in Levi, Finland, in November.
"I'm very excited with how my season is going right now and I think I can do better, too," Shiffrin said.
Pietilae-Holmner's only two victories came in the 2010-11 season.
"I've been struggling with injuries the past two years," she said. "I tore the ACL in my knee two years ago after my best season then had shoulder surgery last spring."
Noens' only previous podium result came in a slalom in Flachau, Austria, three years ago.