Eighteen-year old slalom phenom Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States entered the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi with the pressure of being the gold medal favorite squarely on her young shoulders. She didn't disappoint during the Feb. 21 event final, besting the rest of the field to claim the top spot on the podium in just her second career Games race, but the victory didn't come without a scary moment.
Shiffrin posted the fastest first run time of the bunch with a 52.62, topping the effort put forth by second place finisher and defending Olympic slalom champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany by nearly half a second. During her second and final run, however, viewers released a collective gasp as she nearly took a tumble near the halfway point of the Rosa Khutor course. A quick correction and recovery allowed her to finish the run.
Although she posted just the sixth-fastest time of the second round, her total time of 1:44.54 was good enough to secure the gold medal. The silver medal went to Austria's Marlies Schild (1:45.07), who also took second place at the Vancouver Games and the bronze at the 2006 Torino Games, while her countrywoman Kathrin Zettel earned the bronze (1:45.35). Hoefl-Riesch finished just out of the medals fourth.
Shiffrin's victory makes her the youngest woman to ever win an Olympic slalom gold medal.
Her gold is the fifth medal won by American alpine skiers at the Sochi Games. The others include a gold for Ted Ligety in the men's giant slalom, a silver and a bronze for Andrew Weibrecht and Bode Miller in the men's super-G, and a bronze for Julia Mancuso in the women's super combined.
Alpine skiing at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi concludes with the men's slalom on Feb. 22.