Shiffrin wins 3rd straight World Cup slalom title

MERIBEL, France (AP) Mikaela Shiffrin clinched her third straight World Cup slalom title in style Saturday with a victory at the season-ending finals.

Shiffrin, the Olympic and two-time world slalom champion, beat her only remaining challenger Frida Hansdotter of Sweden by 0.05 seconds to win her sixth race of the season and fifth in slalom.

”I have had a lot of success so far in my career and I am grateful to all the support I’ve had so far, it’s been amazing,” said Shiffrin, who will look for her second giant slalom win of the season on Sunday. ”For sure I’m dreaming of the win tomorrow. But I have to learn to put some risk into my skiing. It’s something I want to practice tomorrow.”

The 20-year-old American had a commanding 90-point lead over Hansdotter going into the race, but stayed true to her attacking style rather than skiing safely to get into the points.

”Frida has been pushing me hard all season, she’s been skiing so fast and I really had to give it my all in the second run to get the win today, said Shiffrin, who finished 110 points clear of her rival. ”When I hit the flat section I had a good feeling, but knew I had to give it everything I had if I wanted to win and luckily it worked out.”

She raised the crystal globe aloft with her right as the crowd cheered.

”I think it’s really hard to control a race like today, because I was behind her after the first run and it was really close,” Shiffrin said. ”I thought if I really put it all on the line in the second run I could walk away with the win. But I was still a little bit nervous.”

Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova placed third and Slovenia’s Tina Maze was fourth, picking up valuable points in her quest for the overall title.

She is 18 points ahead of defending champion Anna Fenninger, who is not a slalom specialist and finished 23rd.

Hansdotter was 0.07 quicker than Shiffrin after the first run and led the American looked set to win her second race of the season when she led the American by 0.34 seconds at the final time split of the second. However, she lost ground on the bottom section of the Roc de Fer course.

The 31-year-old Maze, who competes in all five disciplines, finished third in the slalom standings – 240 points adrift of Shiffrin.

The 25-year-old Fenninger has only one career top-20 finish in slalom, but decided to race Saturday to try to gain a few vital points, although she failed to score any.

The women’s title will be decided in Sunday’s giant slalom – and pits world champion Fenninger against Olympic champion Maze.

Fenninger won the GS at last month’s worlds, with Maze – the 2011 GS world champion – finishing fifth.

Fenninger is also trying to defend her GS crystal globe, and leads countrywoman Eva-Maria Brem by 86 points ahead of Sunday’s race.