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Olympics: Shiffrin in pole position for women's slalom

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin sat in pole position after the first run of the women's Olympic slalom on Friday.

Just days after disappointingly finishing fifth in the giant slalom, the reigning world slalom champion clocked 52.62sec to give herself a comfortable 0.49sec lead over Maria Hoefl-Riesch, the German in her Olympic swansong.

Slovenia's Tina Maze sat in third at 0.67sec, with Bernadette Schild of Austria the only other skier to finish within one second of Shiffrin, at 0.79sec.

Schild's elder sister Marlies, who won slalom silver behind Hoefl-Riesch at the 2010 Vancouver Games and was 2011 world champion, was in sixth position (+1.34sec), just behind French racer Nastasia Noens (+1.19).

Shiffrin, however, denied that her lead would be decisive, with the second run scheduled for 1615 GMT under floodlights.

"Five tenths isn't even that much, it's a two-run race," said the 18-year-old, who 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.

"Most of my plan was just to try to move my feet a little bit faster than everyone else. I guess I moved them about half a second faster!"

Shiffrin said it had been a "really fair course".

"It's set a little bit tighter than most of our courses. It's about nine to 10 metres between gates. This just means you have to move your feet quicker. Most of our courses are between 10 and 11 metres."

Shiffrin added: "I was really relaxed actually (at the start), thank goodness. There were a couple of points throughout the way where I was like 'Oh my god here we are'."

The American was pumped for the second run, saying the floodlit nature of the course -- a feature on the World Cup circuit, would not be a factor.

- 'I like skiing under lights' -

"I like skiing under the lights, I think most of the girls do because it keeps the visibility really consistent. These lights are really good on this hill so I think it'll be good," she said.

Hoefl-Riesch was left happy with her first run after missing Tuesday's giant slalom won by Maze -- her second gold after also winning the downhill -- because of a sore throat.

The 29-year-old German, who has already won a super-combined gold and super-G silver in Rosa Khutor, said: "It's crazy! I was actually surprised that I was in such a good position.

"You have to make a good run to be in front and I'm really happy to be in that position. But the second run will be a tough challenge because the snow is not holding up very well."

She admitted, however, to not feeling fully fit.

"It was good to take two days off," she said. "I'm not at 100 percent but I'm powerful enough to race.

"This is great because this is my last Olympic race. It's really emotional. Of course it would be a great finish to win another medal but I try to keep it easy and not put too much pressure on myself, no matter what's going to happen."

Fourth-placed Bernadette Schild said the snow was "really soft", but praised Shiffrin.

"She skied perfectly like she always does, really easy skiing with no mistakes," she said. "That's what makes her really fast. She's just kind of in a flow.

"But it's slalom, a mistake can happen really fast so I'm not going to give up right now."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140221/olympics-shiffrin-pole-position-womens-slalom-0