KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Showcasing a brilliance rarely seen at such an age, 18-year-old U.S. skiing phenom Mikaela Shiffrin won gold in the slalom Friday night, becoming the youngest skier – woman or man – to win the event in the history of the Winter Games.
Shiffrin came dangerously close to spinning off one gate in her second run, but regained control to beat Austria's Marlies Schild for the gold. Shiffrin finished with a two-run combined time of 1:44.54, .53 seconds faster than Schild, who, at age 32, became the oldest woman to medal in slalom. Austria's Kathrin Zettel won the bronze.
"It was a crazy moment," Shiffrin said of her near-crash. "I was going very fast and I thought I was not going to make it. It scared me."
In her first run, Shiffrin appeared to be steady and almost mistake-free pushing off from the sixth position, steadily picking up time at every split and knocking German star Maria Hoefl-Riesch out of the top spot. Considered a gold medal favorite in the event, Shiffrin ultimately crossed the finish in 52.62, a .49-second lead, giving her a solid cushion heading into the second run.
"I was pretty relaxed, actually," Shiffrin said after her first run. "Thank goodness. Because there were a couple points throughout the day I was like, 'Oh my God, here we go.' I was relaxed in the start and that was awesome."
Ranked as the world’s top slalom skier, Shiffrin has already won seven World Cup races in the event, and has been sharpening in giant slalom as well. Touted as "The next Lindsey Vonn" by some, Shiffrin finished fifth in the giant slalom in Sochi, despite horrendous conditions.
Shiffrin delivered the fifth medal for the U.S. Alpine team in Sochi and the second gold, matching Ted Ligety's in the men's giant slalom.
Click on the image below for more photos of Mikaela Shiffrin: