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Teenager Mikaela Shiffrin dominates World Cup slalom for US record 10th victory

12/29/2014 09:59 EST | Updated 02/28/2015 05:59 EST
KUEHTAI, Austria - Rediscovering her strength in slalom, Mikaela Shiffrin became the most successful U.S. skier in the discipline on Monday.

The teenager racked up her 10th career slalom win, beating the records set in the 1980s by Tamara McKinney and on the men's side by Phil Mahre, who both had nine wins in ski racing's most technically demanding event.

"I wasn't thinking about that today," the 19-year-old Shiffrin said. "Somebody mentioned it and I was like, 'Ha, that is very cool.' I had no idea. But I am just mostly looking forward to enjoying being fast instead of just trying too hard. If you try too hard, you often don't get what you want."

Shiffrin certainly had not got what she wanted in slaloms so far this season.

After dominating the discipline the past two years while winning Olympic and world titles, Shiffrin struggled during the first two months of the new season.

After three races without a podium finish, Shiffrin bounced back in impressive style on Monday. It was her 11th win overall after also triumphing in the season-opening GS in October.

Shiffrin posted the fastest time in both runs and finished in an aggregate 1 minute, 43.39 seconds.

Second-place Sarka Strachova of the Czech Republic was 0.80 behind for her first podium in five years, and Wendy Holdener of Switzerland came third, trailing by 0.92. The rest of the field was more than a second off Shiffrin's winning time.

Tina Maze of Slovenia placed sixth to extend her lead in the overall standings.

"I am definitely satisfied," Shiffrin said. "Especially the second run was really fun to ski. It was really one of my best runs I had all season, including training or anything."

However, Shiffrin wasn't taking anything for granted.

"Many other girls skied well, too, so this is not necessarily the best projector of what the next races will be," she said.

Shiffrin backtracked from her plan to compete in her maiden super-G in Val d'Isere this month, and used the two-week break in technical races to put in extra slalom training in Santa Caterina, Italy.

"We have been working on really getting back to that feeling I had last year when I had really good timing at each gate. I was just on it all the time," the American said. "Figuring out what I need to do in the morning for warm-ups so my legs are ready to go."

Shiffrin also changed equipment, "finding out a ski and a setup that works together and that suits my skiing."

Equipment technician Kim Erlandsson said Shiffrin "needs equipment that allows her to ski freely, that gives her a good feeling and lets her have fun at skiing."

Strachova had a much longer wait to get back onto the podium. Then competing as Zahrobska, the 2007 world champion earned her last victory and podium place in Aspen in 2009. She later had to take a full year off after having surgery for a brain tumour.

"It's a really big day for me," Strachova said. "It's a really happy end of one episode of my life. It means a lot for me."

Strachova said thoughts of the illness propelled her back to the World Cup.

"Lying in the hospital was the best motivation," the 29-year-old Czech said. "The support from my husband and my coach meant everything to me. I have to thank my whole team for this."

The event — the last race of 2014 — was moved from Semmering because of a lack of snow in the resort near Vienna. It was the first World Cup held in Kuehtai, which hosted races for the lower-ranked Europa Cup and for the 2012 Youth Winter Olympics.

The women's World Cup continues with another slalom — in Zagreb, Croatia, on Sunday.

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