Sochi Olympics: Mikaela Shiffrin overcomes near crash to win gold

A month shy of her 19th birthday, Mikaela Shiffrin pulls herself back from the brink of disaster to become the youngest racer to win Olympic slalom.

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Mikaela Shiffrin

American Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates after winning the women's slalom at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games on Friday. (Alexander Klein / AFP/Getty Images / February 21, 2014)

SOCHI, Russia — Mikaela Shiffrin said she played the Olympics out in her head a thousand times before she arrived here.

In reality, it was a thousand times more intense.

She wrote down all the questions she thought reporters would ask and believed she had every course angle covered.

But two days before Friday's race, the world's top slalom racer got a head cold.

Her legs burned so intensely over the last pitch on Friday's first run she wondered if she could make the finish line.

And then, midway through the second run, she almost gave away everything with a near crash midway down the course.

Shiffrin quickly found out that life is what happens after you make plans. But that didn't stop her from making history.

Pulling herself back from the brink of Olympic disaster, Shiffrin regained her composure to win the women's Olympic slalom at Rosa Khutor.

A month shy of her 19th birthday, Shiffrin became the youngest racer, male or female, to win Olympic slalom.

She did it with a two-run time of 1 minute 44.54 seconds against older, wiser racers she grew up admiring.

Shiffrin denied gold to her idol, 32-year-old Austrian Marlies Schild, who was trying to become the oldest women to win the event.

Schild finished 0.53 back and accepted reality along with her silver. It was her second straight slalom silver to go with the bronze she won in 2006.

Kathrin Zettel, another Austrian, won the bronze.

When Shiffrin crossed the second-run finish line without crashing, she knocked defending Olympic champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany to fourth.

It was Shiffrin's way of telling everyone else to move out of the way.

"She was the favorite," Zettel said. "She nailed all of us."

Shiffrin's win did not come without at least three near panic attacks by her mother Eileen, father Jeff and coach Roland Pfeifer.

Despite her sore throat and achy body, everything else was breaking Shiffrin's way Friday. The rain and sleet she faced in Tuesday's giant slalom, in which she finished fifth, had gone away.

Jeff Shiffrin spent Friday morning on his computer checking the hourly radar reports and was assured a rainstorm would pass by 3 p.m.

The first slalom run started at 4:45 p.m., under the lights, and sure enough, the sky had cleared for Shiffrin.

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