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Olympics: Shiffrin ready to add Olympic slalom gold to world title

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin will head into the women's Olympic slalom on Friday as one of the big favourites for gold, just days after she failed to even make the podium in the giant slalom.

The self-assured 18-year-old won world slalom gold in Schladming last season, becoming the youngest American, then at 17, to be crowned a ski champion on the global stage.

She has carried on that form this season, with three slalom victories and a second place to see her sitting atop the World Cup standings ahead of Sweden's Frida Hansdotter, Austrian Marlies Schild, Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon and overall leader Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany.

But Shiffrin was left fuming after finishing fifth in the giant slalom.

"I wanted a gold, but I think this was meant to happen. It's something that I'll learn from. Next Olympics I go to, I'm sure as heck not getting fifth," she said.

I was really thinking that my first giant slalom win would be at the Olympics, and that would be such a cool thing to accomplish.

"It's just something that I accept. I got fifth today, and there were four girls who skied better than I did."

Hoefl-Riesch missed Tuesday's giant slalom won by Slovenia's Tina Maze because of a sore throat.

But Shiffrin was full of praise for the 29-year-old German, who has already won a super-combined gold and super-G silver in Rosa Khutor.

"Maria's one of those athletes I think is a true champion because she's been able to perform across the board, in the World Cup, the world championships and Olympics. It's really cool to see," she said.

"She's a real competitor and she's going to be a great competitor in the slalom as well as many other girls who've been pushing me, and I hope I'll push them."

- 'A favourite in each discipline' -

Germany coach Thomas Stauffer added: "If Maria participates, there's always a chance we'll win a medal.

"She's a favourite in each discipline, but you never know what will happen on the course. Everything can happen. There's always a bigger number of favourites than we think."

Marlies Schild, who won slalom silver behind Hoefl-Riesch at the 2010 Vancouver Games and was 2011 world champion, will head up a strong Austrian quartet including her younger sister Bernadette, current world silver medallist Michaela Kirchgasser and Kathrin Zettel.

The two Schilds, led by Marlies, finished on the podium behind Hansdotter in the final World Cup slalom before the Sochi Games.

Shiffrin won her first World Cup slalom race in Are, Sweden, in December 2012, the same race in which Marlies Schild tore ligaments in her knee.

The US skier has won six races since while Schild returned this season to claim her 35th World Cup slalom win in Linz, Austria - the most of any female skier in history.

Should Schild finish on the podium, she will become the first female skier to win an Olympic slalom medal at three successive Games, having also won bronze at the 2006 Turin Games.

For Hansdotter, this race offers up the perfect opportunity to follow in the footsteps of former Swedish racer Anja Paerson.

Hansdotter's pre-Olympics win in Kransjka Gora broke a World Cup slalom drought that had seen net eight second-place finishes.

The slalom will be raced under floodlights at the Rosa Khutor course, the first run scheduled for 1245 GMT and the second at 1615 GMT.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140220/olympics-shiffrin-ready-add-olympic-slalom-gold-world-title