Superstar skier Mikaela Shiffrin secures third World Cup slalom win
FLACHAU, Austria (AP) -- American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin interrupted her homework for a couple of hours on Tuesday, giving her enough time to pick up another win in women's World Cup slalom.
The 17-year-old Shiffrin earned her third victory in her first full year on the circuit, quickly becoming the world's leading slalom specialist.
"I'll probably try to get some reading done before going to bed tonight," she said after the race, revealing she had already spent most of the day doing homework for school. "Sometimes I feel the hardest subjects are the most fun. I am really a nerd."
Shiffrin, who was second after the opening run, posted the third-fastest time in the final session to finish in a combined time of 1 minute, 51.45 seconds.
"It's unbelievable," said Shiffrin, who was cheered by 11,500 spectators. "I heard the crowd and I tried to let them take me down the course. They wanted me to win. That gave me wings."
Frida Hansdotter of Sweden was 0.85 back in second, and Tanja Poutiainen of Finland took third, trailing Shiffrin by 1.10.
Former overall champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, who led Shiffrin by 0.56 after the first run, straddled a gate shortly before the end of her final run and failed to finish.
Shiffrin increased her lead in the discipline standings. She now has 436 points, compared to 355 for closest challenger Tina Maze of Slovenia. The advantage makes the American a strong favorite to win this season's slalom title.
"I can't imagine someone a year ago telling me I would be in this position now," Shiffrin said. "But I've always wanted it and I've worked for it as hard I can, so here I am."
Shiffrin was already the first American to win two World Cup races before turning 18. She is exactly the same age - 17 years, 308 days - that Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell was when she earned her third career victory in 1971.
Moser-Proell holds the career record of 62 World Cup wins.
"She is without a doubt the best skier in history and I am making my way now," Shiffrin said. "In the summer, my coach was telling me about her. I had obviously heard of her but we looked up on Wikipedia about her results. ... And now I am here and it's amazing."
Matching Moser-Proell made Shiffrin proud. It's part of her desire to be the best in everything she does - as quickly as possible.
"I have big goals," Shiffrin said. "Part of my goals has always been to be the youngest to do anything. I have tried to be faster than the older girls and faster than the boys. It just sets new challenges and that is fun."
Overall World Cup leader Maze placed fifth, extending her lead over second-place Hoefl-Riesch to 590 points. In fifth place with 526 points, Shiffrin is the highest ranked American, just above Lindsey Vonn, who has 504 points.
Vonn, the defending overall champion, skipped the race because of a lack of recent training in the discipline. She returned to the circuit last weekend after an almost four-week break to recover from intestinal illness.
Shiffrin, who also won races in Are, Sweden, and Zagreb, Croatia, wasn't clear in the first section of both runs but accelerated in the steeper middle part and finished strong.
"I just kept going," Shiffrin said about her second run. "Like 3- and 4-year-olds, they are running around all day and they just don't get tired. That's probably like me. I always keep going and I guess it works."
With the win in Flachau - the race with the highest prize money on the women's World Cup circuit - Shiffrin increased her season's earnings rise to $175,500.
"Maybe I will make a trip to Maui," Shiffrin said. "I am a 17-year-old, what do I have to do with money? Let's save it up for retirement."
In her final run, Hoefl-Riesch stretched her lead over Shiffrin to 1.03 seconds before straddling a gate and missing out on her 25th World Cup victory.
"I made a turn just too early," Hoefl-Riesch said. "I knew Mikaela had a good run, and I knew that a lead of half a second can disappear pretty quickly."
The former overall champion, who won November's season-opening slalom in Levi, Finland, would have been the first German skier to earn 10 World Cup slalom victories.
In Flachau two years ago, she shared victory with Tanja Poutiainen of Finland.
"You can't explain why but sometimes it suddenly all fits together," said Hoefl-Riesch, whose Levi win is her sole victory of the season. "I am not having a bad season, it's just some minor things that have been missing to be at the top."
The women's World Cup travels to Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy for speed races this weekend. The final slalom before next month's world championships is on Jan. 27 in Maribor, Slovenia.