U.S. teen Shiffrin youngest to win gold in Olympic slalom

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After her terrific opening run, she listened to music and did word searches.

Like a kid killing time between classes.

In her Olympic debut, Tuesday’s giant slalom, Shiffrin finished fifth. But the slalom is her specialty.

“I did envision this moment so many times,” said Shiffrin, who wore a stars-and-stripes “USA” temporary tattoo on her neck. “On the chairlift ride to the start in the second run, I started crying a little bit. I started tearing up, because I was like, ‘This actually might happen, and I don’t know what to think if it does.’”

Older, more accomplished racers faltered.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany was in second after the afternoon’s opening run but faded to fourth in what she said would be her last Winter Games race.

Tina Maze of Slovenia, who won Sochi golds in the downhill and giant slalom, went from third in the opening leg to eighth.

“She’s young. She’s free. She doesn’t think too much,” Maze said about Shiffrin. “She’s just doing it easy. For that age, I’m really impressed.”

Shiffrin’s gold gave the United States five Alpine medals, second to Austria’s seven. With one event remaining, the men’s slalom Saturday, it’s the second-highest total for the U.S., after eight in 2010. That American team, though, had Lindsey Vonn, now sidelined by knee surgery.

For quite some time, Shiffrin has been likened to Vonn, the four-time World Cup champion and two-time Olympic medalist.

Both are based in Colorado. Both are charismatic. Both were successful early and marked for greatness.

“People have said that I’m ‘the next Lindsey Vonn’ several times, and it’s the same thing with being ‘the young Tina Maze’ or whoever. It’s amazing to be compared to them, and I’m really honored to have that comparison. But I don’t want to be ‘the young Tina Maze’ or ‘the next Lindsey Vonn,’” she said. “I want to be Mikaela Shiffrin.”

Which is a pretty good thing to be right now.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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