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Olympics: Shiffrin enters as vets exit swinging Olympic doors

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

US teen Mikaela Shiffrin claimed slalom gold to usher in a new wave of younger skiers as a raft of decorated veterans exited the revolving doors of the Olympic Winter Games.

Shiffrin became the youngest ever slalom champion at just 18, a year after claiming world gold, the perfect fresh-faced and self-assured tonic for a sport hit by the absence of injured media darling Lindsey Vonn.

"It is OK to be confident, it does not jinx anything, it is not arrogant, it is a fact that you come to the Olympics to win," Shiffrin said.

"I know that my fastest skiing is fast enough for gold. Miracles are not random. You control your own destiny. You can make your own journey.

"I am already dreaming of the next Olympics and winning five gold medals."

While the American teenager could realistically be around for at least the next three Olympics, two veterans of women's alpine skiing will not be reappearing at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games: Tina Maze and Maria Hoefl-Riesch.

Maze of Slovenia ended the alpine skiing as the most successful skier in both sexes after claiming golds in the downhill and giant slalom, the former shared in a frustrating first with unheralded Swiss Dominique Gisin.

"It's more than we expected. If you believe, it can happen. I wanted to show my best, especially here, the most important race of the season," said Maze, who also won two silvers at the Vancouver Games in 2010.

Hoefl-Riesch won combined gold and super-G silver to go with two Vancouver golds, and she and Maze, both proven performers on the world championships and World Cup stages, will be sorely missed in 2018.

- Thrill-loving Miller -

There were also two medals apiece for Austrians Anna Fenninger (super-G gold, giant slalom silver) and Nicole Hosp (combined silver, super-G bronze).

With Matthias Mayer claiming a surprise gold in the opening men's downhill, and veteran Mario Matt -- now the oldest Olympic champion in alpine skiing -- and Marcel Hirscher completing a 1-2 in the closing slalom, Austria secured a total of nine medals (three gold, four silver, two bronze) to top the nations' table.

It was thrill-loving American Bode Miller who had set the pace in speed training on a Rosa Khutor course he described, in a back-handed compliment, as one where "someone could get killed".

But Miller, in his fifth Olympics, had to settle for a super-G bronze, becoming the oldest skier to finish on the podium, at 36 years and 127 days, with his sixth Winter Games medal.

Miller's teammate Ted Ligety again proved his mastery in the giant slalom to win the discipline.

But Ligety was unable to reproduce his treble gold medal-winning performance from last year's world championships in Schladming, and in the absence of speed queen Vonn, the US team finished second to Austria in the medal table (2-1-2).

The men's results were generally a mixed bag, with Miller and Norwegian colossus Aksel Lund Svindal failing to go home with what they were tipped to win.

Svindal, in particular, seemed flat, unable to carry over his impressive World Cup form and the Norwegian eventually left Russia early after running out of patience with an ongoing allergy.

- Jansrud is an idol for young Norwegians -

His teammate Kjetil Jansrud won the super-G and claimed downhill bronze, his country's only medals, Italian Christof Innerhofer won Italy's two in the downhill and super-combined (silver and bronze).

Jansrud's victory in the second speed event meant Norway have now won the last four men's Olympic super-G titles following Kjetil Andre Aamodt's victories in 2002 and 2006, and Svindal's win in 2010.

"Jansrud is absolutely an idol for young Norwegians," beamed Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg after the race.

One to watch for the future is certainly 19-year-old Henrik Kristoffersen, who claimed bronze in slalom after negotiating a second run set by Croat Ante Kostelic which Ligety branded "borderline unsportsmanlike" after 12 of the top 30 bombed out.

There was a shock win for Switzerland's Sandro Viletta in the super-combined, one of several random results for skiers with few or even no World Cup podiums to their name.

French unknown Steve Missillier won giant slalom silver and American Andrew Weibrecht claimed super-G silver after winning bronze in Vancouver and doing nothing in between.

"It's been a pretty difficult four years," Weibrecht philosophised. "It's not like Roger Federer who won maybe 120 tennis matches and lost just one.

"It's the essence of ski racing, you have to learn to manage disappointment a lot of the time."

It snowed only once in three weeks of training and competition, but a team of 500 piste workers did an amazing job in keeping the courses in, largely, very good condition.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140223/olympics-shiffrin-enters-vets-exit-swinging-olympic-doors