By Rory Carroll
(Reuters) – American Mikaela Shiffrin beat rival Petra Vlhova of Slovakia to claim the World Cup title in the women’s slalom for the second year in a row at the Killington Cup in Vermont on Sunday.
Shiffrin built a commanding 0.89 of a second lead with an aggressive first run and avoided mistakes in her solid second trip down the icy course in windy conditions.
She finished with a combined time for the two runs of 1 minute 40.91 seconds, 1.64 seconds better than Vlhova.
“I just tried to stay as balanced as I could,” Shiffrin said of her second run.
“I wanted to really attack the second run but I also knew I had to be smart in some sections and it worked out quite well.
“It wasn’t easy but when I ski balanced, it makes it easier than when I don’t.”
The win marks the 22-year-old Shiffrin’s first World Cup crown of the year and her 26th career title in slalom.
Shiffrin will look to be the first skier to win back-to-back gold medals in slalom when she competes at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February.
Sunday’s win was payback for Shiffrin, who has lost to fellow 22-year-old Vlhova in the last two World Cup slalom competitions.
The speedy Vlhova has emerged as the American’s chief rival in the sport.
Austrian Bernadette Schild finished a distant third, 2.67 second back of Shiffrin.
The Colorado-born Shiffrin, who spent her formative years in New Hampshire and Vermont, credited the vocal support of the record crowd of 18,000 for her win.
“Today I felt they really carried me to the finish,” she said. “The fans on the East Coast are the best crowd that I race in front of.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; editing by Ken Ferris)