Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Shiffrin is golden in Olympic women’s slalom

Historic victory for U.S. teen star

Express Staff Writer

Mikaela Shiffrin U.S. Ski Team by Sarah Brunson

     On her racing helmet, Mikaela Shiffrin wears the letters “A.B.F.T.T.B.,” which has been explained in various media outlets to mean “Always Be Faster than the Boys.”

     Heidi Voelker, a U.S. Ski Team racer from Pittsfield, Mass., signed a poster with those words at the request of six-year-old Shiffrin 12 years ago, and Shiffrin has taken them to heart.

     But third-year USST alpine racer Shiffrin, 18, has shown in a short period of time on World Cup circuit that she is always faster than the girls when it comes to slalom racing.

     She is the reigning world women’s slalom champion. She won the World Cup overall slalom title in 2013, the same year she became the first non-European to win four slaloms in a single season. And she leads the World Cup slalom standings this season, having won three of the of the six races.

     All of her slalom wins have come in Europe, many of them at night. The 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games at Krasnaya Polyana in Russia were just another stop on Shiffrin’s precocious upward trajectory.

     The teenager from Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy who lives in Eagle/Vail, Co. has said, “To everyone else it is my first Olympics. To me, it is my thousandth.”

     Shiffrin, the pre-race favorite, showed that maturity Friday in winning the Olympic women’s slalom gold medal by 0.53 seconds over Austria’s 34-time World Cup race winner Marlies Schild, who took the silver medal, and by 0.81 seconds over bronze medalist Kathrin Zettel of Austria.

     She became the youngest Olympic gold medalist in women’s slalom history under the lights at Rosa Khutor.

     Shiffrin also gave the U.S. its first Olympic slalom victory since Phil Mahre in 1984. And she became the first American women’s slalom champion in 42 years, since Barbara Cochran won the gold medal at the 1972 Sapporo (Japan) Olympics.

     Fighting the effects of a cold, Shiffrin charged out to the fastest opening run by 0.49 seconds over Germany’s current World Cup overall leader Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who ended up just out of the medals in four place, 1.19 seconds off the pace.

     In her second run Shiffrin preserved her lead with the sixth-fastest run behind a blazing fast second-run top time by Schild.

     Sun Valley’s Jasmine Campbell, 22, representing the U.S. Virgin Islands, placed 43rd out of 49 two-run finishers (60 starters) in Friday’s slalom, 25.83 seconds off Shiffrin’s top time. In Tuesday’s giant slalom, Campbell was 56th of 67 finishers.

     On Tuesday in her first Olympic race, Shiffrin placed fifth on the Rosa Khutor course in the giant slalom just 0.50 seconds behind gold medalist Tina Maze, 30, of Slovenia.

     Shiffrin’s stunning two-run slalom performance will be televised on NBC television this evening.

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