Shiffrin wins WCup slalom, extends winning streak to 5 races
FLACHAU, Austria (AP) Olympic slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin used a frenetic final run to stretch her winning streak in 2018 to five races at a women's World Cup night race on Tuesday.
Shiffrin became the first female skier to start a calendar year with five straight wins, eclipsing the previous best mark by Swiss standout Vreni Schneider in 1989.
For the first time this season, Shiffrin was not leading after the opening part of a slalom. After a run in which the American struggled for rhythm throughout, she trailed first-run leader Bernadette Schild of Austria by 0.37 seconds.
But on a course set by her coach Mike Day, the defending overall champion was back to her best and posted the fastest second-run time to beat the Austrian by 0.94.
Frida Hansdotter of Sweden was 1.43 behind in third.
''My timing, my feeling, my rhythm was so much better than in the first run,'' Shiffrin told The Associated Press. ''Actually, the biggest change was just my mindset. It was a nerves' thing. If I am a little nervous or anxious, my timing is off, then it can make everything look really terrible.''
Less than five weeks before the Olympic slalom in Pyeongchang, the American called her recovery in the final run ''a really big step for me.''
''This was the first time that I was coming from behind in the first run and I had to make a statement,'' she said. ''That was really important for me, a really big checkmark on the way to the Olympics because when we are there, anything can happen, and I want to be mentally prepared for all those possibilities.''
Schild lost her first-run lead but still celebrated with both arms up after crossing the finish line.
The Austrian was on a World Cup podium five times before, most recently in Killington in November, but has yet to win a race.
''I grew up in Saalfelden, nor far from here. So this is really a home race for me. It was amazing for me,'' Schild said. ''I didn't feel pressure, the audience gave me energy.''
The previous time she led a slalom after the opening run, in 2013 in Courchevel, she lost her advantage to her older sister Marlies Raich. Now retired, Raich holds the record for most slalom wins (35) on the women's circuit. Shiffrin's win on Tuesday was the American's 30th in the discipline.
The Austrian women's team has been waiting for a slalom win since Nicole Hosp triumphed in Aspen in 2014.
Shiffrin celebrated her 41st career win, matching the record for most World Cup wins by a 22-year-old skier, set by Annemarie Moser-Proell in the 1970s.
''She is such an amazing name, legend in ski racing,'' Shiffrin said about the Austrian great. ''A lot of people say you can't really compare (the eras) and I agree with them. It's incredible, nevertheless. I wasn't thinking about the 41st victory, I was just thinking, you know, ski this one like this is going to be that last one you'll ever ski.''
It also was the 200th win for the U.S. ski team in the 50-year history of the women's World Cup. Only Austria (372) and Switzerland (301) have won more races. Shiffrin and four-time overall champion Lindsey Vonn together have added 119 wins to the American total.
Shiffrin went further ahead in both the overall and the slalom standings as her main rivals, Slovakia's Petra Vlhova and Switzerland's Wendy Holdener, failed to finish their first runs.
After 19 of the season's 38 races, Shiffrin has amassed 1,381 World Cup points. Four years ago, that amount would have been enough for the overall title as Anna Veith won it with a total of 1,371.
After seven races in 13 days, Shiffrin will skip the next World Cup - speed events in Bad Kleinkirchheim this weekend - to rest and have more time for training.