Seventeen-year-old Eagle-Vail ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin picked up her first World Cup win Thursday in Sweden.
Shiffrin became the third youngest American woman to win a World Cup race behind Kiki Cutter, who won slalom in 1968 at the age of 16, and Jody Nagel, who won slalom in 1969 at just three months younger than Shiffrin. The win also puts her on top of the World Cup slalom standings with 196 points over Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch's 174 points.
She won the night race in Are, Sweden, with a combined time of 1 minute, 45.36 seconds. U.S. Ski Team spokesman Doug Haney said she had an "incredibly solid" first run, after which she was in second place, but it was her second run that blew everyone away. Haney called it "flawless."
Shiffrin sounded wise beyond her years in a teleconference with the media around 2 p.m. Colorado time Thursday as she spoke about her win and the mindset she had going into the race.
She felt like Thursday night was her night to pick up a win because she said she finally felt ready. She knew whenever she felt ready, admitting she has never been able to predict when that feeling would come, that's when she would win.
"I've been in this position a couple times now and gave it away because I was thinking too much about today being my day," Shiffrin said, adding she knew she had to fight for it Thursday night. "Tonight I just felt like I know how to handle that position now."
Shiffrin didn't expect to win at such a young age, but she "sure hoped for it," she said. She said she has tried to stay grounded and focused as she has worked toward her first World Cup victory.
"I didn't want to be waiting around that long because I'm pretty impatient when it comes to competition," she said.
Shiffrin talked about the emotions she felt after the win, and what it was like to see her mother at the finish area. She said the finish area was hectic and she had to stay out there for media photos. It was 10 or 15 minutes before she saw her mother.
"I kept seeing her across the fence and I couldn't get to her," Shiffrin said. "It was so exciting and there was all sorts of emotion running through everybody. ... Hearing her say, 'Great job,' and 'I love you,' and 'I'm so proud of you,' - it was just the best thing."
That's when it hit Shiffrin that everything she's been working so hard for is now paying off. She described that moment as when she started to feel like she was home - she now feels like she's where she belongs, she said.
"It's hard to find that feeling when you're so far away from home for so long," Shiffrin said.
Shiffrin said her phone was "blowing up" while on the media call, which happened around 10 p.m. Sweden time. Congratulatory posts on social media sites were also blowing up as the news spread across the Atlantic.
"Omg Mikaela Shiffrin just won a World Cup in Sweden, huge," Tweeted professional skier Chris Anthony, of Avon.
She was getting shout-outs from fellow American skiers, too, including veteran racer Steven Nyman, who picked up a World Cup downhill win last weekend in Italy.
"Yeeeaaahhhhhhh Mikaela Shiffrin nice work baby! I picked you for the win! And you officially made me quit slalom," Nyman Tweeted.
Shiffrin entered her first World Cup in the Czech Republic in March 2011. She did not qualify in her first three World Cup attempts, but picked up an eighth-place finish in her fourth World Cup race in Aspen just more than a year ago in slalom.
After Aspen, Shiffrin did not finish her next two races and then failed to qualify in giant slalom in Lienz, Austria. The next day, Dec. 29, 2011, however, Shiffrin picked up her first podium with a third-place finish in slalom in Lienz. She was just 16 years old.
Since then, she has scored World Cup points in 10 races out of 14 entered, including Thursday's slalom win. And, in her 14 career World Cup slalom starts, Shiffrin has seven top-10 finishes, including two podiums and Thursday's win.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.