Shiffrin excels in World Cup skiing opener for her 70th win

Austria Alpine Skiing World Cup

SÖLDEN, Austria (AP) — A friendly pat on the back from her rival Petra Vlhova and a long hug from boyfriend Aleksander Aamodt Kilde in the finish area were Mikaela Shiffrin's rewards for excelling in the season-opening World Cup giant slalom on Saturday.

Shiffrin showed two runs of near flawless skiing on one of the toughest hills on the women's circuit to earn her 70th career win.

The American Olympic champion's performance was too much even for Lara Gut-Behrami, the reigning GS world champion from Switzerland.

With 2020 overall men's champion Kilde looking on, Shiffrin sat .02 behind Gut-Behrami after the opening leg but put in another clean run in the second to edge her Swiss rival by .14 in perfect sunny conditions on the Rettenbach glacier.

“Starting off the season strong is important, so I am super happy,” Shiffrin said. “It’s a pleasure to ski today, they did so amazing with this (course) preparation, it felt so amazing to ski this hill.”

The pair finished well ahead of the rest of the field, with defending overall champion Petra Vlhova of Slovakia trailing by 1.30 seconds in third.

Shiffrin became only the third skier in World Cup history to reach the 70-win mark, after Ingemar Stenmark and Lindsey Vonn achieved the feat before they finished their careers on 86 and 82 wins, respectively.