(Jan 4, 2013) After 17-year-old U.S. slalom star Mikaela Shiffrin landed her first career World Cup victory two weeks ago in Sweden, some in the European press intimated it was a fluke.
Her margin of victory in Friday’s night race at Zagreb, Croatia, says otherwise. Under bright lights and in front of thousands of avid fans, Shiffrin won both runs on a soft, rutted track, leaving her nearest competitor 1.19 seconds behind. The Burke Academy senior phenom vaulted into first place in the slalom standings and took home the largest cash purse of the women’s season, more than $78,000.
Shiffrin edged Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter for first place. Canada’s Erin Mielzynski was third. Women’s overall leader and hometown favorite Tina Maze of Slovenia was second on the first run but straddled early in her second, relinquishing the lead in the slalom standings to Shiffrin. “I was not nervous,” said Maze. “I just attacked because I knew Shiffrin was the one to beat.”
Shiffrin became the first American to win two races before turning 18 and the youngest woman to win two World Cup slalom races since 1977. She moves into sixth place in the overall standings in her sophomore season on the tour. Maria Hoefl-Riesch, No. 2 in the overall, was sixth, and USA’s Resi Stiegler was ninth.
Shiffrin’s only bobble: She didn’t know how to open the bottle of bubbly presented to her on the podium—excusable for a girl who’s more than three years shy of the legal drinking age in the U.S.
Shiffrin also graciously acknowledged the absence of Austrian slalom ace Marlies Schield, the four-time Zagreb winner, who is out for the season. “In the second run, I actually thought about Marlies—the way she skied the second leg last year. I shared that energy with her.”
Doubters pointed to Shields’s absence when Shiffrin won at Are two weeks ago, insinuating Shiffrin won against a weak field. Friday’s winning margin—and her position atop the slalom rankings—should silence skeptics.
Photo: Eric Schramm