The new golden girl of US skiing Mikaela Shiffrin completed a hat-trick of Killington Cup slalom wins Sunday to delight a raucous home crowd in Vermont.
With the pressure on after missing out on the podium in Saturday's giant slalom, Shiffrin responded magnificently with a near flawless second run to secure victory by over half a second from Petra Vlhova of Slovakia.
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It was her 34th World Cup win in slalom, now just one shy of the all-time record held by Marlies Schild of Austria, a former champion she holds in the highest regard.
"I don't care if I beat her record," she modestly told reporters. "I still feel she is the greatest slalom skier of this generation."
Olympic slalom champion Frida Hansdotter of Sweden finished third, over a second back, as the American backed up her victory in the opening race of the season in the multi-gate discipline in Levi.
Austria's Bernadette Schild took fourth with Michelle Gisin of Switzerland rounding out the top five.
Fervent home support
Killington in Vermont has adopted Shiffrin as one of its own, the 23-year-old superstar having trained for the top at the local Burke Mountain Academy.
Leading after the first run in difficult conditions, the crowd's anticipation reached a fever pitch as Shiffrin was about to attempt her second leg, facing a tough task after a brilliant second run from Vlhova.
"I could hear you at the start," said Shiffrin, who felt clearly inspired by the sheer volume of support.
"It was the most unbelievable thing I have ever experienced."
The victories have given Shiffrin in early advantage in the overall standings as she looks to take that title for the third straight year, leading Vlhova by 114 points with Federica Brignone of Italy in third.
She will head to next week's speed events in Lake Louise admitting to be a "little short of practice" in the downhill and super-G disciplines but carrying US hopes after Lindsey Vonn delayed the start of her season due to injury.
Shiffrin was below her best in the giant slalom in Vermont, won in fine style by Brignone, a blistering second run securing her fifth World Cup victory.
Shiffrin was trailing in sixth after a slow first run and could only move up to fourth, 0.99 seconds slower than Brignone, in the second but made amends Sunday in some style in her strongest discipline.
Meanwhile, the men's World Cup downhill season started Saturday in Lake Louise and there was a fine victory for Austria's Max Franz in Canada.
In bright sunshine, he held off the challenge of Italian pair Christof Innerhofer and Dominik Paris for the second World Cup win of his career after Val Gardena in 2016.
Sunday's super-G at the same Calgary venue went to 2014 Olympic champion Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, who is defending the World Cup title in the discipline. Vincent Kreichmayr of Austria finished second with Swiss Mauro Caviezel in third.
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