Mikaela Shiffrin showed that the US ski team can live without Lindsey Vonn, at least for a little while.
In the first World Cup race since Vonn announced a break from the circuit, 17-year-old Shiffrin picked up the slack on Thursday — earning her first career victory by winning a night slalom ahead of home favorite Frida Hansdotter.
Shiffrin has been touted as the next US skiing star and showed why under the floodlights on Are’s Olympia course, putting down a perfect second run to finish with a combined time of 1 minute, 45.36 seconds.
“This is huge,” Shiffrin said. “I think the best part besides the skiing was the ceremony. It made me cry a little bit when I heard the American anthem.”
Shiffrin was second after the first run and was given quite a challenge by overall World Cup leader Tina Maze, who had a blazing second run to take a large lead just before the American was to ski.
However, Shiffrin kept her composure in a run that was even faster, setting a time that first-run leader Hansdotter could not match.
Hansdotter was still ahead of the American at the first two intermediate times, but was not as fast in the final section and finished 0.29 seconds behind for second place. Maze was third, 0.52 behind.
“It wasn’t two perfect runs, but it was two fast runs,” Shiffrin said. “Ahead of the second run, I guess I didn’t really feel any pressure. It felt more like something was pushing me forward rather than something pulling me towards the finish line.”