US teen Shiffrin leads WCup slalom after 1st run

February 2, 2014
Mikaela Shiffrin, of the US, speeds down the course during the first run of an alpine ski, women's World Cup giant slalom, in Lienz, Austria, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Marco Tacca)

KRANJSKA GORA, Slovenia (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin overcame a course softened by days of rain and snowfall to post the fastest first-run time at a women's World Cup slalom Sunday, the final race before the Sochi Olympics.

The American teenager timed 54.31 seconds on the Podkoren course to lead Frida Hansdotter of Sweden by 0.31. The 18-year-old slalom world champion is chasing her third straight win and fourth of the season.

"It was not great conditions but it was better conditions for me than for the girls coming down later," Shiffrin said, who was the third starter. The American had one mistake in the steep middle section but quickly recovered.

Maria Pietilae-Holmner of Sweden was 0.63 back in third, and Marlies Schild of Austria came 0.65 off the lead in fourth.

"Mikaela started only just ahead of me so I should have been closer," said Schild, who is the only racer other than Shiffrin to win a slalom this season. "I was struggling as I didn't give enough pressure on my skis. The snow is very soft, you have to give more pressure."

Shiffrin will retain her World Cup season title with two slaloms to spare if she wins the race with Hansdotter not finishing better than sixth and Schild no better than fourth.

"We'll see what happens, I feel ready," Shiffrin said.

Olympic slalom champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who leads the overall standings, came 1.38 behind in ninth before criticizing the conditions.

"I saw already at inspection this morning that the course is very bad," the German skier said. "We knew they would push through this race today at all costs, which is questionable for me so shortly before the Olympics ... The snow broke and with my start No. 7 there were already some big holes."

Austrian Kathrin Zettel, who was seventh, added "Nobody is feeling well here ... It's a very tough race."

Defending overall champion Tina Maze struggled for most of her run in front of her home crowd and finished 2.15 behind Shiffrin in 19th.

However, some late starters still made it into the top 10 after the opening run, most notably Erin Mielzynski of Canada and Denise Feierabend of Switzerland.

Mielzynski wore bib 19 and posted the sixth fastest time, while Feierabend was the 25th starter and ended up in 10th.

The unfavorable weather conditions forced organizers to cancel a GS on the same course Saturday.