Mikaela Shiffrin takes spotlight as world championships hit final weekend

AP
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Mikaela Shiffrin waited out the first nine days of the world championships. Now, she gets to race for gold.

Shiffrin is a medal favorite in the giant slalom on Thursday and the gold-medal favorite in the slalom on Saturday, live on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app from St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Thursday
Giant Slalom Run 1 — 3:45 a.m. ET (NBCSports.com/live)
Giant Slalom Run 2 — 7 a.m. ET (NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live)

Saturday
Slalom Run 1 — 3:45 a.m. ET (NBCSports.com/live)
Slalom Run 2 — 7 a.m. ET (NBCSports.com/live)
Slalom Highlights — 12:30 p.m. ET (NBC)

The U.S. owns one medal so far from the first seven events at worlds — a downhill bronze from Lindsey Vonn — but Shiffrin is expected to lift the American team in the remaining technical events.

Three women in Thursday’s giant slalom field have won World Cup giant slaloms this season — France’s Tessa Worley (three victories), Shiffrin (two) and Italian Federica Brignone (one). One of the pre-event medal favorites, Swiss Lara Gut, is out after tearing her left ACL on Friday.

Shiffrin, who owns 25 World Cup slalom wins, picked up her first outright World Cup GS victories this season on back-to-back days in Semmering, Austria. She has finished sixth or better in all seven World Cup GS races this season, consistency only Worley can match.

It bodes well for Shiffrin to improve on her previous major GS results — sixth at the 2013 Worlds, fifth at the 2014 Olympics and eighth at the 2015 Worlds at home in Vail, Colo.

“I’m a lot more confident in my GS than I was going into Vail,” she said earlier this month. “My slalom, I guess my confidence level is about the same.”

The slalom is Shiffrin’s bread and butter. On Saturday, she can become the second woman to win three world slalom titles and the first since 1939.

Starting with the 2015 World Championships, Shiffrin won 15 straight slaloms until a DNF on Jan. 3. She’s won and finished third in two slaloms since.

Shiffrin also goes into these two worlds races well prepared, following an extended period of training. She opted to skip the super-G last Tuesday and the super combined on Friday in St. Moritz to spend more time working on her slalom and giant slalom in practice.

“My main events are GS and slalom right now, and I feel like I can use this block of training to power through world champs, but also set me up for more success at the end of the season with the rest of the World Cup,” Shiffrin said before worlds.

Shiffrin is all but guaranteed more success in the final month of the World Cup season. She leads the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport, by 180 points over Gut, who is out for the season.

The next-closest racer is 414 points behind, the gap equivalent of four wins. With only 11 races left, Shiffrin is poised to become the third U.S. woman to win the overall title after Tamara McKinney and Vonn.

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