FLACHAU, Austria (AP) — American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin interrupted her homework for a couple of hours on Tuesday to write another piece of ski racing history at a women's World Cup night slalom.
The 17-year-old Shiffrin, who has already become the world's leading slalom specialist, earned her third victory in her first full year on the circuit. "I'll probably try to get some reading done before going to bed tonight," she said after the race, revealing she had already spent most of the day doing homework for school. "Sometimes I feel the hardest subjects are the most fun. I am really a nerd."
Shiffrin, who was second after the opening run, posted the third-fastest time in the final run to finish in a combined time of 1 minute, 51.45 seconds. "It's unbelievable," said Shiffrin, who was cheered by 11,500 spectators. "I heard the crowd and I tried to let them take me down the course. They wanted me to win. That gave me wings."
Frida Hansdotter of Sweden was 0.85 back in second, and Tanja Poutiainen of Finland took third, trailing Shiffrin by 1.10. Former overall champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, who led Shiffrin by 0.56 after the first run, straddled a gate shortly before the end of her final run and failed to finish.
Shiffrin went further ahead on top of the discipline standings, leading closest challenger Tina Maze of Slovenia by 436-355 points. The advantage makes the American a strong favorite to win this season's slalom title.
"I can't imagine someone a year ago telling me I would be in this position now," Shiffrin said. "But I've always wanted it and I've worked for it as hard I can, so here I am." Shiffrin was already the first American to win two World Cup races before turning 18. She is exactly the same age — 17 years, 308 days — as Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell was when she earned her third career victory in 1971.
Moser-Proell holds the all-time record of 62 World Cup wins. "She is without a doubt the best skier in history and I am making my way now," Shiffrin said. "In the summer, my coach was telling me about her. I had obviously heard of her but we looked up on Wikipedia about her results... And now I am here and it's amazing."
Matching Moser-Proell made Shiffrin proud. It's part of her desire to be the best in everything she does — as quickly as possible. "I have big goals," the American said. "Part of my goals has always been to be the youngest to do anything. I have tried to be faster than the older girls and faster than the boys. It just sets new challenges and that is fun."
Overall World Cup leader Maze placed fifth, extending her lead over second-place Hoefl-Riesch to 590 points. In fifth place with 526 points, Shiffrin is the highest ranked American, just above Lindsey Vonn, who has 504 points.
Vonn, the defending overall champion, skipped the race because of a lack of recent training in the discipline. The American returned to the circuit last weekend after an almost four-week break to recover from intestinal illness.
Shiffrin, who also won races in Are, Sweden, and Zagreb, Croatia, wasn't clear in the first section of both runs but accelerated in the steeper middle part and finished strongly. "I just kept going," Shiffrin said about her second run. "Like three and four-year-olds, they are running around all day and they just don't get tired. That's probably like me. I always keep going and I guess it works."
With the win in Flachau — the race with the highest prize money on the women's World Cup circuit — Shiffrin saw her season's earnings rise to $175,500 (€133,770). "Maybe I will make a trip to Maui," Shiffrin said. "I am a 17-year-old, what do I have to do with money? Let's save it up for retirement."
In her final run, Hoefl-Riesch stretched her lead over Shiffrin to 1.03 seconds before straddling a gate and missing out on her 25th World Cup victory. "I made a turn just too early," Hoefl-Riesch said. "I knew Mikaela had a good run, and I knew that a lead of half a second can disappear pretty quickly."
The former overall champion, who won November's season-opening slalom in Levi, Finland, would have been the first German skier to earn 10 World Cup slalom victories. In Flachau two years ago, she shared victory with Tanja Poutiainen of Finland.
"You can't explain why but sometimes it suddenly all fits together," said Hoefl-Riesch, whose Levi win is her sole victory of the season. "I am not having a bad season, it's just some minor things that have been missing to be at the top."
World slalom champion Marlies Schild, who won two of the last three races in Flachau, is recovering from knee surgery. Her younger sister Bernadette finished sixth for her second straight top-10 finish after placing seventh in Zagreb 10 days ago.
The women's World Cup travels to Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy for speed races this weekend. The final slalom before next month's world championships is on Jan. 27 in Maribor, Slovenia.