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History no burden as Shiffrin completes slalom hat-trick

Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States celebrates her victory at the world titles in St Moritz, Switzerland on Saturday.
Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States celebrates her victory at the world titles in St Moritz, Switzerland on Saturday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

ST MORITZ (SWITZERLAND) • Speed divas be warned: three-time world slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin is targeting the super-G and downhill in her quest for global domination.

The American vowed she had "no limits" after crushing the opposition by a whopping 1.64 seconds over two runs in the women's slalom at the World Ski Championships in St Moritz on Saturday. She finished ahead of crowd favourite Wendy Holdener of Switzerland.

It was her third world win, after previous victories in 2013 and 2015.

The 21-year-old from from Vail, Colorado, matched the accomplishment of German Christl Cranz who completed her treble in 1939.

Shiffrin opted out of competing in the super-G and alpine combined, saying she would focus on what she currently does best - the more technically challenging slalom and giant slalom.

It was a ploy that paid off, Shiffrin having also won a silver in the giant slalom.

UNBRIDLED AMBITION

I want to be the best skier, not just the fastest skier, but the best technically, the strongest person, be the most consistent.

MIKAELA SHIFFRIN, whose third world slalom title equalled the achievement of Germany's Christl Cranz, who dominated during the 1930s.

"I'm proud we took a step back and said 'I'm not doing the combined or super-G but I'm focusing on my events and will do my best'," she said. "It put a little bit more pressure on the giant slalom and slalom but at the end of the day it paid off."

Shiffrin stormed to prominence as a precocious teenager on the tough World Cup circuit.

Her breakthrough victory in the Schladming World Championships four years ago promised a racer with nerve and stamina, and she has not disappointed since.

She bagged the double in Beaver Creek/Vail in 2015 - a year after winning Olympic gold in the Sochi Games - to join retired Croatian Janica Kostelic as the sole skier to have defended a slalom title in the modern era.

Shiffrin, with 28 World Cup wins to her credit, has shown increasing ability in the speed events, finishing a very creditable fifth in a testing super-G in Cortina just before travelling to St Moritz.

"There is no limit," warned Shiffrin, who now seems destined to accelerate her pursuit of the footsteps of Sweden's Anja Paerson and Kostelic, both slalom specialists who turned into complete overall performers.

"Right now I'm still really motivated, I want to be the best skier, not just the fastest skier, but the best technically, the strongest person, be the most consistent," the American said. "So far my career has been like that and I want to keep going with it now, especially going into speed disciplines as well.

"I have a lot of goals there and hopefully some day I'd like to win in super-G and downhill, but that'll take some time before I can do that consistently, so it's definitely a long road for me. It feels like I just started!"

Turning to her crushing slalom victory in St Moritz, Shiffrin acknowledged that it was no mean feat, but admitted she was struggling to take it on board.

"I don't really know what that means yet," she said of the treble, matching Cranz. But the German's dominance was in an era when the world championships were much smaller, equipment was nowhere near as cutting edge as it is today and course-setting and preparation were not nearly as taxing as modern skiers face.

"I didn't realise (about the treble) until someone mentioned it to me five days ago. Today my real focus was just on the day, the two runs and my own skiing," Shiffrin said.

"I was trying not to worry about anyone else, any of the other skiers. It wasn't about three medals, but today and one medal."

Shiffrin said the record was "a lot to think about".

"It's a long time ago," she said. "It's difficult to perform so well in big events three consecutive times. It's definitely not easy, I can understand why people haven't done it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2017, with the headline 'History no burden as Shiffrin completes slalom hat-trick'. Print Edition | Subscribe