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Mikaela Shiffrin races for another reindeer

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Mikaela Shiffrin already has three Olympic medals. She can win her third reindeer on Saturday.

Shiffrin headlines the first slalom of the World Cup season in Levi, Finland, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming via NBC Sports Gold’s Snow Pass.

The first run is at 4:15 a.m. ET. The second is at 7.

The traditional (and unconventional) winner’s prize in Finland is a reindeer. Shiffrin captured the Levi slalom in 2013 and 2016, naming her furry friends Rudolph and Sven.

The reindeer stay in Finland while Shiffrin criss-crosses Europe and North America on the World Cup tour.

Shiffrin lost in her trademark discipline in Levi last fall to a new rival, Petra Vlhova of Slovakia.

Motivated, Shiffrin won the next six slaloms before skiing out of the last slalom before the Olympics. Then in PyeongChang, Shiffrin shockingly finished fourth in defense of her Sochi Olympic title (after a giant slalom gold and before a super combined silver).

She bounced back, winning the last two World Cup slaloms of the 2017-18 season.

In the past, Shiffrin voiced a goal of winning every slalom in a season. She won all but three each of the last two years. Levi is the first of 12 World Cup slaloms this season.

Shiffrin must overcome the three women who made the PyeongChang podium ahead of her — Swede Frida Hansdotter, Swiss Wendy Holdener and Austrian Katharina Gallhuber.

She has already shown strong form, taking third in the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, three weeks ago.

Nothing but a third reindeer will suffice in Saturday’s slalom, though.

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Mikaela Shiffrin makes podium in World Cup season opener

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Mikaela Shiffrin and Tessa Worley vacationed together in Martinique in the offseason. They shared the podium — Worley first, Shiffrin third — in far less inviting weather in the first race of the World Cup season, a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria on Saturday.

Shiffrin, the Olympic GS champion, finished .94 behind the Frenchwoman and .59 behind Italian runner-up Federica Brignone. She was disappointed with her first run on a course set by her coach, which put her in fourth place and six tenths back going into the afternoon finale.

“I wasn’t really fighting hard enough,” Shiffrin said, according to The Associated Press. “For sure [my second run] was better. It was not like pretty skiing but I was fighting harder. I had fun out there but I also had some turns that were not fun at all.”

The start was moved down before the first run due to poor visibility, compounded by windy snowfall and bumpy terrain on the Rettenbach glacier.

“It was a fight,” Worley said.

MORE: Full Results | Alpine season TV schedule

Shiffrin made the podium in Soelden for the fourth time in five years. She’s favored this season to join Lindsey Vonn as the only women to win three straight World Cup overall titles in the last 25 years.

Shiffrin gained points Saturday on her top rivals from recent seasons. Swiss Wendy Holdener, last season’s overall runner-up, was seventh. Another Swiss, Lara Gut, the 2016 World Cup overall champ, was 14th.

“I was able to start the season with a podium and it’s a great thing,” Shiffrin said, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “It’s not enough, but it’s OK for now and it’s a good place to start.”

Worley, who relegated Shiffrin to GS silver at the 2017 Worlds, became the first Frenchwoman to win in Soelden. It’s her 13th World Cup win, all in giant slalom. She was a disappointing seventh in the PyeongChang Olympic GS.

The World Cup season continues with the opening men’s giant slalom in Soelden on Sunday (4 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold). Double Olympic champion Ted Ligety has won four times on the Rettenbach glacier.

Shiffrin is expected to headline the next women’s World Cup race, a slalom in Levi, Finland in three weeks. Vonn plans her season debut in her farewell year for the first speed events at Lake Louise, Alberta, in five weeks.

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MORE: Vonn explains why it’s her final season

Mikaela Shiffrin opens World Cup season with nerves settling, history calling

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Mikaela Shiffrin knows that last season was incredibly successful — Olympic gold and silver medals, a repeat World Cup overall title and fifth slalom globe with a personal-best 12 wins on the circuit.

She also knows that most friends and family asked about something else — her fourth-place finish in the PyeongChang Olympic slalom.

“They say, what happened in the slalom?” she said in a preseason interview with Austrian TV. “And there’s not really one answer. And a lot of the answers I have will just sound like I’m complaining or that they’re excuses. So I don’t like to talk about it too much because I like to focus more on the incredible success that I did have in the giant slalom and the super combined as well, but for sure the slalom was a disappointing thing for me. To be so close to a medal, coming in fourth place, it’s kind of like a little burn.”

Shiffrin begins the post-Olympic season with the traditional opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Saturday.

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Four years ago, she began the PyeongChang Olympic cycle with her first win in a discipline other than slalom in Soelden (a tie with Anna Veith). She would end the quadrennial with two medals in South Korea in events other than slalom.

In between, Shiffrin suffered the first significant injury of her career, began racing speed events (even won a downhill) and spoke about nerves that caused her to throw up before races (including the PyeongChang slalom).

She began Skyping and texting a sports psychologist, who suggested writing the words “I am” on her lime-green gloves. Shiffrin had read the poem “Invictus.” I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

“I’m more excited for this season, going into Soelden, than I have been in the past,” she said last week. “The last couple of years, I felt a little bit like someone has a choke hold on my neck, and the closer we get to the race, the more I feel like they’re choking me. This year, I feel a lot more comfortable with my skiing or just kind of comfortable with this whole process.”

This season, Shiffrin can join the farewelling Lindsey Vonn as the only women to win three straight World Cup overall titles in the last 25 years.

She can pass childhood idol Marlies Schild of Austria for the World Cup slalom wins record — Shiffrin has 32 (plus three parallel slalom wins that don’t count for this stat); the retired Schild 35.

She is favored to tick off both boxes. But Shiffrin only speaks about the numbers when they’re brought up by reporters.

“To be honest, I don’t know how many slalom wins that I have now,” she told Austrian TV. “It’s something in the 30s, I guess, and I have a total of 40-something wins. I don’t really count, so I don’t really know where I am in terms of those records. For me, it’s the best way to think about it because if I start thinking about those records, it’s going to be too much pressure.”

The goals this season include the usuals. A priority on defending the slalom title. Striving for a first giant slalom season title. Dabbling in speed races as she bids for another overall globe. (Shiffrin did something out of character this offseason, spending vacation time in Martinique with a top GS rival, Frenchwoman Tessa Worley, while on a trip with her boyfriend, French racer Mathieu Faivre, and other members of that nation’s team.)

Shiffrin also voiced a new goal, long-term, that would put her in exclusive company.

“Some day I will be able to have wins in every discipline,” Shiffrin said (she has them all except super-G), “and hopefully I will be able to win in every event in one season.”

Not even Vonn has done the latter. Shiffrin would be the fourth after Petra KronbergerJanica Kostelic and Tina Maze. Now that would really get the friends and family talking.

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MORE: Vonn explains why it’s her final season