Last updated: March 16. 2013 7:09PM - 186 Views
ERIC WILLEMSEN, Associated Press

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SCHLADMING, Austria — American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest women's slalom world champion in 39 years on Saturday.

At the age of 17 years, 340 days, Shiffrin beat all of her more experienced rivals to earn the U.S. team its fourth gold and fifth medal overall at the worlds, more than any other nation.

It's such a crazy day, Shiffrin said. It's so emotional ... I don't know yet, I can't feel yet. It's amazing.

The 17-year-old Shiffrin was third after the opening run but finished in a combined time of 1 minute, 39.85 seconds to beat Michaela Kirchgasser of Austria by 0.22 and Frida Hansdotter of Sweden by 0.26.

After the race in front of a crowd of 30,000 had ended, Shiffrin looked around in disbelief before hugging second-place Kirchgasser several times. Shiffrin's parents Jeff and Eileen embraced each other at the stands.

I keep saying it, I keep thinking it. It doesn't make sense. It's just me, Shiffrin said when asked how it felt to be world champion.

In the first run, Shiffrin said she didn't feel quite right.

I just tried to find my legs. They popped up out of nowhere, she said. I was in the starting gate and I was like, ‘Oh, there they are, I can go now!'

After finishing first, Shiffrin thought, I hope it holds. I was thinking so many things and I just can't even remember it. It's one of those things where everything is a blur and that's how you know it was good.

Shiffrin said she was inspired by teammate Ted Ligety, who won the men's super-G, super-combined and GS titles.

Oh yeah! For sure, she said. I think everyone was. That was amazing.

Julia Mancuso won the United States' first medal by taking bronze in the event-opening super-G.

Shiffrin is the youngest women's world champion in any discipline since fellow American Diann Roffe-Steinrotter, who was 21 days younger when she won the giant slalom title in 1985.

The only slalom world champions younger than Shiffrin were Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein in 1974 and Esme Mackinnon of Britain in 1931.

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