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Eagle-Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin stepped on the gas on the lower section of the women’s slalom course Saturday, erasing a slight deficit on the upper part of the course and thrilling the hometown crowd by defending her World Championships gold medal from two years ago.
It was the second gold medal in as many days after Ted Ligety’s giant slalom victory on Friday, and it pushed the Americans into second place in the medal count behind Austria with one day of competition left at the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships at Vail and Beaver Creek.
Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter won silver on Saturday, and Sarka Strachova of the Czech Republic claimed the bronze.
After a solid first run, the 19-year-old Shiffrin pushed out of the gate with large lead that quickly evaporated. Her first split time went from green to red, and her second split showed a miniscule loss of time again. Shiffrin skied an uncharacteristically hesitant top of the course.
But she shifted gears after her second split and stomped on the gas on the last section of the slalom course, crossing the finish line .34 seconds faster than Hansdotter. The partisan crowd exploded.
“At the beginning of my run, I knew I was attacking, but it was a little bit of a conservative line,” Shiffrin said. “I knew I had to charge down here and try to use the groove a little bit … I’m glad to walk away with this one and do it at home in the last 10 gates.”
Shiffrin, who turns 20 next month, has now won two world championships and an Olympic gold in the last two years.
“It’s pretty crazy now that I think about it,” Shiffrin said. “Just before my second run, I started to convince myself how much I wanted to win this race. It’s about the process; it’s about the turns. I’m happy.”
The 12-time World Cup winner admitted to feeling some nerves so near her home.
“I felt a little bit of pressure racing at home,” Shiffrin said. “I actually might be in a little bit of denial about it. I always say that I don’t really feel pressure, but I think I feel it; it’s just about how I handle it. It sparks throughout the day where I think, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t do this.’ Then there are moments when I think, ‘I’m king of the world.’ It’s just about finding the right attitude in the right moment and putting it together for a win.”
The 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships conclude Sunday with the men’s slalom at 10:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. The race is free and open to the public. Go to the official website for more information.