Shiffrin builds huge lead in 1st run of World Cup slalom
JASNA, Slovakia (AP) Unbeaten in her favorite discipline for more than a year, Mikaela Shiffrin still had to congratulate Frida Hansdotter of Sweden on winning the World Cup slalom title on Sunday.
The Olympic champion from the United States won the next-to-last race by a massive 2.36-second margin while Hansdotter finished 4.13 seconds back in 10th to wrap up the title.
Shiffrin has won all seven slaloms she competed in since February 2015 but couldn't retain the discipline title this season having missed five races during a two-month injury layoff.
''I knew this was going to happen when I got injured,'' said Shiffrin, who damaged her knee in warmup for a giant slalom in Are, Sweden, in December.
''First I was really mad. After a while, I honestly believe that she deserves it. For Frida's performances in the past four years she deserves to have something like a crystal globe to have at home and to look at the rest of her life and say, `Yeah, I won that fair and square.'''
Hansdotter holds a 105-point lead over Velez-Zuzulova with only the season-ending race in St. Moritz, Switzerland, remaining. It's the Swede's first discipline title after Shiffrin won it the past three seasons.
In front of 17,000 spectators and defying tough conditions due to snowfall and rain, the American posted the fastest time in both runs to finish ahead of Wendy Holdener of Switzerland. Veronika Velez-Zuzulova of Slovakia was 2.77 back in third.
''It feels like a dream, a little bit, and I am scared that I am going to wake up,'' Shiffrin said about another huge winning margin, three months after setting an all-time record by winning a slalom by 3.07 seconds.
''Both runs I tried to pretend there was a bear hunting me so I had to be fast. It worked really well,'' she added.
Shiffrin, who turns 21 next week, earned her 19th World Cup victory. Only Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell had won more races - 31 - at the same age.
Shiffrin had left her rivals in awe after a stunning first run that gave her a 1.67-second lead. Putting in a trademark performance, she accelerated to an unmatched pace after a moderate start.
''It was really good, I felt good,'' said Shiffrin, who was congratulated by many competitors and received a complimentary pat on the shoulder from Norway's Nina Loeseth while standing in front of the leaderboard.
The American was conservative in the first few gates and Velez-Zuzulova even led her by 0.13 at the first split time.
''Every run is like a fifty-fifty chance that I have my timing or I don't,'' Shiffrin said. ''The two months off, I definitely lost a little bit of the confidence in my timing but that run I definitely had it.''
Extending her big lead with a solid final run, Shiffrin's victory never was in doubt.
Runner-up Holdener acknowledged that ''Mikaela is really good at the moment. She skies better than us. We have to push hard so we can get to her level.''
It was the first race at the Slovakian resort in the Low Tatras mountains since 1984.
Skiing in front of her loudly cheering home crowd, Velez-Zululova was ''very happy'' to finish third.
''To have a home race was a dream, and it's even better now I am on the podium,'' Velez-Zuzulova said. ''It was no easy race because of all the pressure and the expectations.''
A giant slalom on the same course, which was called off Saturday due to strong wind, is scheduled for Monday.