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US teenagaer Shiffrin wins womens' downhill gold

Mikaela Shiffrin from the US reacts after competing in the women's slalom at the 2013 Ski World Championships in Schladming, Austria on February 16, 2013. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEINALEXANDER KLEIN/AFP/Getty Images
Mikaela Shiffrin was a picture of joy following her victory Saturday, making her the youngest women’s slalom world champion in 39 years. (Getty Images)AFP/Getty Images

Mikaela Shiffrin might as well be dancing or flying.

That’s what skiing is like for the American teenager these days. The victories and milestones keep piling up, fortifying a US team that is without Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller.

A day after Ted Ligety became the first man to win three gold medals at a world championships in 45 years, Shiffrin became the youngest woman in 39 years to win the slalom title Saturday in Schladming, Austria.

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At the age of 17 years, 340 days, Shiffrin shook off a serious bout of nerves to edge local hope Michaela Kirchgasser from the lead before a crowd of 30,000 fans who were nearly all supporting the Austrian.

‘‘Doing what I did on the hill today, especially in the second run, just skiing, is like dancing or flying,’’ Shiffrin said. ‘‘There’s so many ways that I can describe it. But it just is, and it works for me.

‘‘It’s been 17 years in the making and everybody says that it comes too fast but it seems like it’s been forever for me . . . I am just doing what I do and I don’t want to wait.’’

The only slalom world champions younger than Shiffrin were Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein in 1974 and Esme Mackinnon of Britain in 1931. Overall, Shiffrin is the youngest women’s world champion since American Diann Roffe-Steinrotter, who was 21 days younger when she won the giant slalom title in 1985.

Shiffrin won her first three races this season to lead the World Cup slalom standings and set up big expectations for her first major championship. That explains the jitters before the opening run in which she placed third.

During the podium ceremony, Shiffrin breathed heavily but held back tears as she sang the American anthem, with her father videotaping the scene. Shiffrin’s older brother, Taylor, was also there.

Shriffrin’s parents were both ski racers, but it was when Taylor started to race that she realized she wanted to be a part of the sport.

Shiffrin grew up in Colorado and moved to New Hampshire when she was 12. She started skiing in powder in the West then got used to rougher and icier conditions in the Northeast. She credits former US coach Kirk Dwyer for shaping the way she skis while at Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont.

Freestyle — Torin Yater-Wallace led an American 1-2 finish in the men’s skiing halfpipe event in Sochi, Russia, his second World Cup victory this season. Switzerland’s Virginie Faivre won the women’s race.

Ski jump — Sixteen-year-old Sara Takanashi of Japan won a women’s World Cup event in Ljubno, Slovenia, to extend her lead in the overall standings. Sarah Hendrickson of the United States was second.

Richard Freitag of Germany won a men’s World Cup event in Oberstdorf, Germany, while Austria’s Gregor Schlierenzauer extended his overall lead by finishing third.

Cross-country — Alexey Poltoranin of Kazakhstan and Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland had dominating men’s and women’s sprint victories at a World Cup meet in Davos, Switzerland.

Skeleton — Noelle Pikus-Pace and Katie Uhlaender took the top two spots in the season-ending World Cup race in Sochi, while Germany’s Marion Thees finished with the overall title.

Bobsled — Canada’s Lyndon Rush won his first two-man World Cup overall title after finishing fourth in the season-ending race at the Sochi Olympics venue. Beat Hefti of Switzerland and Thomas Lamparter won the race.

Biathlon — Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen earned his 19th world championship in the men’s relay, winning the gold medal in the discipline for the fourth straight time in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.

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