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Alpine skiing: Schoolgirl Shiffrin in slalom heaven

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Mikaela Shiffrin confirmed her status as the most promising prodigy in women's alpine skiing when she shelved her school homework for long enough to win the world slalom crown.

The sporting precocity of the 17-year-old, however, is not something she says has been born from merely landing at the right place at the right time.

It has been long planned by a supportive, hard-nosed family whose interests were rooted in skiing and the advancement of their daughter from nappies and kids' plastic skis into a fully-blown, professional ski racer.

"It's been 17 years in the making," Shiffrin admitted after her slalom win at the World Ski Championships here, with Austrian Michaela Kirchgasser taking silver and Sweden's Frida Hansdotter bronze.

"Everyone says it's been so fast but it feels like forever for me."

Born in Vail, Colorado, Shiffrin was brought up on skis but moved to the east coast of the United States at the age of eight.

Her fast development continued apace at a private school specialising in ski racing, and Shiffrin went on to make her World Cup debut aged 15 in March 2011.

She made a podium in the Lienz slalom in December of the same year as a 16-year-old, waiting 12 further months before finally winning a World Cup event, a night slalom in Are in December 2012, aged 17.

"So many things have got me to this point," Shiffrin said. "It's kind of a cliche, but you've just got to believe you can do anything, it's true. I've always believed in myself."

One thing Shiffrin said she did not fear was skiing, although she admitted to some pre-race nerves after failing to get her body to the state of preparation she wanted it before the first run.

"I'm afraid of the dark, but not skiing!" she joked.

"This morning I woke up and did my warm up and my muscles felt so sluggish and tired, I was still sleeping," she said.

"I just couldn't move my feet fast enough.

"Between the runs I had a lot of hot chocolate and kind of ran around a lot."

She added: "Two minutes before the second run, my muscles were alive and my head cleared and all of a sudden it was like a whole new day."

Shiffrin credited training with the Italian men's team as upping her game.

"I tend to step up my game when I train with the men because I'm always trying to beat them," she said.

"I really like training with the men. It's a whole new level, women aren't comparable to that but we could do if we got the same mentality."

Kirchgasser shocked the home crowd by topping her much-favoured compatriots for second place at 0.22sec

"That was the key for me: I don't need to prove anything. I just thought I can do it, I like the course and am in good shape.

"Maybe it helped that I didn't have quite the perfect season this year and wasn't a favourite."

Bronze medallist Hansdotter was left "super happy" with her podium showing, and tipped Shiffrin for better things to come.

"She's an amazing skier, she's so young, I think we'll see a lot of her in the future," she said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130216/alpine-skiing-schoolgirl-shiffrin-slalom-heaven