Mikaela Shiffrin proving she’s in league of her own

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There are ski racers, and then there is Mikaela Shiffrin.

NBC Sports essayist Tim Layden calls Shiffrin the “rarest creature,” a prodigy who continues to get better with age.

Shiffrin’s stardom took off with her heart-stopping slalom gold medal in the 2014 Olympics. It looked like she would ascend to an even higher level four years later in PyeongChang when she claimed a gold medal in the giant slalom, but then she lost a battle with her nerves and failed to win a medal in the slalom. She did capture a silver in the combined event.

That Olympic disappointment has fueled her historic World Cup season. She became the youngest skier to pass the 50 win mark. She broke the women’s career record for slalom victories, and she became the first skier ever to win four-straight world championship titles in a single event.

A true prodigy indeed.

Mikaela Shiffrin makes history with fourth-straight slalom world championship win

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Set to ski ahead of her two fastest competitors from run one, Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener and Sweden’s Anna Swenn-Larsson, the U.S.’ Mikaela Shiffrin, who had fought through violent coughing fits in her first run, was pulled aside by her mom to say it was O.K. if she didn’t ski her second.

“My mom said to me before the second run, ‘You don’t have to do this,'” Shiffrin said. “I was coughing so hard that my stomach was in spasms, and I couldn’t breathe, and then I kept coughing more.

“At what point do you say, No, I can’t do 60 seconds of skiing. I’m out here. I want to do it and whether I win or not, I just wanted to try. And when she said, You don’t have to, then I was sure that I wanted to.”

Skiing for her record-setting fourth consecutive world slalom title, Shiffrin went all-in, raising the stakes in the two-run race and crossed the finish in first, taking over the top spot by more than a second.

After completing her fight with her body and the mountain, Shiffrin collapsed to the snow, coughing and gasping to catch her breath.

With the final outcome now out of her control, Shiffrin watched, hoping her lead would hold.

Swenn-Larsson followed Shiffrin, but was unable to find the speed to knock Shiffrin out of first. Despite missing the top spot by .62 hundredths of a second, Swenn-Larsson was greeted like a champion by the home crowd as she won the first medal for Sweden at these world championships.

Holdener was next on course, but just moments into her run, it became clear Shiffrin would prevail. Making her 11th turn on course, Holdener came off a gate wide and was forced to hit the brakes. Holdener would finish her second run well off the pace set by Shiffrin, falling all the way to 17th.

Full results are here.

“I knew I had to fight really hard the second run because Anna and Wendy are so strong,” a tearful Shiffrin told NBC Sports after her run. “The girls behind me were also really close. I just figured I have to be tough and try it and I just need 60 seconds to push, and I can do that for 60 seconds.”

Shiffrin gets her second win of these world championships. Her first came in the first race of the event, the Super-G. Shiffrin was also on the giant slalom podium, winning bronze in the same discipline in which she leads her competitors by a considerable margin on the World Cup points list.

The 2019 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships wraps up in Are tomorrow morning with the men’s slalom. Watch the first run live at 5:00 a.m. ET on TV and streaming on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold, with an encore presentation on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET. The second run gets started at 8:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold.

Shiffrin third after first run in chase for world championship slalom history

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The U.S.’ Mikaela Shiffrin, in an attempt to become the first skier to win four-straight world championship titles in a single event, is in need of a second run like none other if she hopes to make history in Are, Sweden.

Shiffrin, battling a bad cold, cut back on her warmup routine prior to her first run in an attempt to conserve energy.

Shiffrin was the second skier on course and is currently third in the standings after her first run.

First run results are here.

“A lot of my run felt pretty good. Breathing is a little difficult, so that’s the only tricky thing,” Shiffrin told NBC Sports after her first run. “You gotta breathe to keep your energy through the entire run, so I was sort of managing that a little bit.

“To be honest, nobody races in perfect conditions, so I think I gotta toughen up a little bit.”

Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener had the best time in run #1, followed by Sweden’s Anna Swenn-Larsson. Holdener, Swenn-Larsson and Shiffrin are all bunched up at the top, with just over a tenth of a second separating Shiffrin from Holdener.

One likely issue facing Shiffrin and her competitors in run two will be skiing on a rutted track of soft snow. Race organizers have made every attempt to harden the surface, but their attempts may be in vain. 

“The second run is gonna be bumpy, and it’s gonna be a fight,” Shiffrin said.

Shiffrin has been dominant in slalom on the World Cup this season, winning six out of the seven slalom races held. Shiffrin’s biggest rival in slalom this season and winner of this week’s world championship giant slalom, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, also found herself behind the lead with the fifth-best time after her first run.

Catch the encore presentation of the first run of women’s slalom on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET and watch Mikaela Shiffrin chase history live in the second and deciding run of women’s slalom on NBCSN on TV and streaming beginning at 8:00 a.m. ET.