American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin, the 18-year-old some believed would be the breakout star of the Sochi Games, made history on Friday, becoming the youngest woman ever to win gold in the slalom.
Shiffrin knocked off a “murderer’s row” of skiing legends “with the poise of someone 10 years older and the talent level of perhaps only herself” literally under the brightest of lights at night under the spotlights.
Shiffrin, 18, of Eagle-Vail, Colo., won the gold medal in the women’s slalom, beating, among others, a trio of legendary skiers — 29-year-old Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, 30-year-old Tina Maze of Slovenia, and 32-year-old Marlies Schild of Austria.
Shiffrin is also the “first U.S. woman to win the slalom at the Olympics since Barbara Cochran took the gold 42 years ago at the 1972 Winter Games.”
In her first run, her time of “52.62 seconds beat the defending Olympic champion, Hoefl-Riesch, by 0.49 seconds, and the defending World Cup overall champion, Maze, by 0.67 seconds. Schild, the greatest female slalom skier in history, with 35 World Cup wins and two Olympic medals, finished way back (1.34 seconds behind Shiffrin) in the first run.”
Americans have lacked stars in the Sochi Olympics, so Shiffrin will be under white-hot spotlights and may be the face of the Sochi Games for the U.S.
But as she showed on Friday, that’s where she performs the best.