Shiffrin builds huge 1st-run lead in WCup slalom opener

LEVI, Finland (AP) Mikaela Shiffrin built a huge lead in the opening run of the first women's World Cup slalom of the season on Saturday.

On an icy slope in freezing conditions, the Olympic and world champion from the United States took a 0.72-second lead over Sweden's Frida Hansdotter and Switzerland's Wendy Holdener, who shared second place.

Petra Vlhova of Slovakia came 0.89 behind in fourth and was the only other skier to finish within a second of the American.

''I was nervous. But after the first run I feel better,'' said Shiffrin, who is chasing her 20th career win in the discipline.

''I think everybody is a bit nervous today so probably nobody is skiing their best,'' she said. ''In the second run hopefully I can clean up a few spots. It's basically like a new race. I just have to ski hard.''

Shiffrin has won all eight slaloms that she has competed in since February 2015. However, Hansdotter took the slalom title last season as Shiffrin missed five races because of a knee injury.

The 18-year-old Melanie Meillard of Switzerland, who was competing in her fourth World Cup race, started in 40th but posted the fifth fastest time, 1.14 off the lead.

Austria's Bernadette Schild, younger sister of retired slalom great Marlies Schild, failed to qualify for the second run after damaging the edge of a ski early in her run and finishing 3.92 seconds behind Shiffrin.