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Mikaela Shiffrin fights through illness to win slalom gold at world championships

FIS Alpine Skiing World Championships 2019, Are, Sweden - 16 Feb 2019
Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates after winning the gold medal in the slalom at the world championships on Saturday.
(Jean-Christophe Bott / EPA-EFE / REX)

An unprecedented victory for Mikaela Shiffrin. And easily the most dramatic.

Skiing through illness, the American barely had the energy to celebrate becoming the first ski racer — male or female — to win the same event at four straight world championships.

The 23-year-old Shiffrin won the slalom on Saturday after producing possibly the most resilient performance of her career in the second run, during which she said she “ran out of oxygen” halfway down the course. She overturned a 0.15-second deficit from the first run to win by 0.58 from Anna Swenn Larsson.

“A testament to her grittiness,” Shiffrin’s coach, Jeff Lackie, told The Associated Press, “and what she was able to accomplish in that second run was nothing short of incredible.”

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A tearful Shiffrin collapsed to the snow for a while in the finish area. There were two more racers — Swenn Larsson, then Wendy Holdener — still to come down but her time held up.

When Holdener went off the course early in her run, Shiffrin’s victory was guaranteed and she had an emotional exchange with Petra Vlhova, who finished in third place.

“Everyone around me today was helping me so much to make it so that I could breathe when I needed to,” Shiffrin said, her voice noticeably croaky.

“I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, I’m sick and I won.’ I mean I was really pushing and maybe I couldn’t have done better if I was feeling normal.”

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It was a second gold of these championships for Shiffrin after winning the super-G. She also took bronze in the giant slalom.

She has won five golds at the world championships, and seven medals in total — putting her just one off the American record held by Lindsey Vonn.

Shiffrin had the fastest second run by 0.62 seconds.

“She’s a standout and had a standout run,” said Livio Magoni, Vlhova’s coach. “There’s nothing to say. Technically, it’s worth watching over and over again to learn from.”

Swenn Larsson won Sweden’s first medal of the championships. Vlhova’s bronze added to the gold she won in the giant slalom.


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