US teenage ski star Mikaela Shiffrin won the women’s night slalom in Flachau, Austria, on Tuesday in dominant fashion, beating her rivals by close to a second. The 18-year-old, who was winning in Flachau for a second successive year, clocked a time of 1 minute, 45.83 seconds over two runs.
Two Swedes completed the podium, with Frida Hansdotter second at 0.83 seconds off the pace and Maria Pietilae-Holmner third at 1.14 seconds.
Shiffrin, the reigning slalom world champion and winner of last year’s World Cup crystal globe in the discipline, already led after the first run, having put in a thundering performance to finish 0.9 seconds ahead of Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch. In the second run, she made a few mistakes, but nevertheless proved unbeatable, even as the skiers faced poor visibility and rain on the course.
“There were a couple of moments where I thought I was going out... I had to fight,” she said after the race, still looking like she could hardly believe her win. “Nine tenths of a second is a lot of time, it seems like, but it goes away really fast.”
“It’s a tough hill because it’s not steep and it’s not flat, sometimes you don’t know how to take it,” she added.
However, she was satisfied with her performance: “I felt like I did my best skiing in the first run today. It was really fun... every gate was coming fast, I really liked it.”
The youngster thus confirmed her dominance in the slalom, with less than a month to go before the Winter Olympics in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. She leads the World Cup rankings now with 402 points, ahead of Hansdotter with 258 points.
For the 28-year-old Swede, last year’s world slalom bronze medalist, this was the second slalom podium in a month after Courchevel. All her eight career slalom podiums have seen her fill the runners-up spot.
However, with Shiffrin in superior form, this was the best result she could hope for on Tuesday.
“I’m skiing really good and I’m really satisfied with my skiing,” Hansdotter said. “Mikaela was unbeatable today... but my skiing’s starting to be where I want.”
Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch, two-time slalom World Cup trophy winner and overall leader, was second after the first run, but ended up just off the podium in fourth place.
The race, which took place in front of a boisterous crowd of 14,300, had been widely expected to be a duel between Austrian veteran Marlies Schild and Shiffrin, 14 years her junior. Going into Flachau, each had two slalom wins this season. However, with the joint third-fastest time after the first run, Schild, who has won a record 35 World Cup slaloms, made a costly mistake, eventually finishing 26th at 5.84 seconds.
The popular night slalom in Flachau was one of the last opportunities for the skiers to measure themselves against their competitors ahead of Sochi. Only one other women’s slalom is scheduled before the Olympics — in Maribor, Slovenia, on Feb. 2.