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Mikaela Shiffrin shines in slalom as Florence Bell fails to finish

Updated: Saturday, 22 Feb 2014 10:29 | Comments

Florence Bell failed to finish in testing conditions at Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre
Florence Bell failed to finish in testing conditions at Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre

American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin made Winter Olympics history by becoming the youngest slalom gold medal winner at Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre, as Ireland’s Florence Bell saw her Games finish in disappointing fashion.

Shiffrin was the favourite heading into the event after topping the podium at last year's World Championship in Schladming and was the overall World Cup champion.

She proved she could shine on the grandest stage on Friday with an opening run that left her nearly half a second clear of the rest of the field.

Shiffrin, who finished fifth in the giant slalom earlier this week, set off second time around with a healthy 1.34second advantage over second-placed Marlies Schild, and although she nearly fell halfway through her run, she held her nerve to move into the record books.

"It was a crazy moment. I was going very fast and I thought I was not going to make it, it scared me," she said.

An overall time of one minute 44.54 seconds was enough to secure victory by 0.53secs ahead of silver medallist Schild, whose fellow Austrian Kathrin Zettel claimed bronze.

"It is tough to describe my feelings. This has been a dream of mine for a very long time," Shiffrin said after breaking Paoletta Magoni-Sforza's record for the youngest Olympics slalom winner.

Bell, who failed to finish either of her runs in the giant slalom, made a relatively encouraging start, clocking a time of one minute 7.84 seconds on her first run to lie in 55th place as 21 starters failed to complete their opening runs.

However, the 17-year-old came a cropper midway through her second run and failed to finish.

Shiffrin was particularly delighted to share the podium with her "idols".

Schild, who also won silver in this event at Vancouver 2010, became the oldest slalom medallist at 32 years old, while Zettel earned her first Olympic podium place.

Shiffrin added: "This is one of the most special days of my life.

"Winning a gold medal at the Olympics is one thing, but being able to share it with these two, they're two of my greatest idols.

"I used to watch them ski ever since I can remember and I really modelled myself after them."

Defending champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch was second after the first run but a big mistake halfway through her second attempt saw her finish fourth, 1.19secs behind Shiffrin, who has been compared to the German as well as fellow Olympic gold medallists Tina Maze and most prominently compatriot Lindsay Vonn.

Shiffrin added: "I do like being compared to all these amazing, great athletes and I'm really honoured to have that comparison.

"But I don't want to be the young Tina Maze or the next Lindsay Vonn, I want to be Mikaela Shiffrin and hopefully this gold medal is going to improve that."

Great Britain's curling men had to settle for silver after a 9-3 thrashing by Canada in their final in Sochi which ended with only eight of 10 ends completed.

David Murdoch's all-Scottish rink were looking to become the first men's curling team from Great Britain to win gold for 90 years.

However, as it transpired, they took a heavy beating until calling it a day when defeat was inevitable.

Second place confirmed that Great Britain, with a fourth medal of the Games, have at least matched their medal haul from Chamonix 1924 and it was their second curling medal in Sochi after Eve Muirhead's women's team took bronze on Thursday.

For Murdoch, 35, it is third time lucky after failing to win a medal in Turin, 2006, and Vancouver, 2010.

But he will surely have mixed feelings after a torturous day in the Ice Cube Curling Center where it was reported that Scottish fans were told to take down the Saltire flag by a Sochi official as it is not allowed under International Olympic Committee rules.

Michael Goodfellow's first throw of the match was right on the button but it went downhill fast after that as GB conceded two in the first end to put them immediately under pressure.

Murdoch could only reduce the deficit by one in the next end when he had hammer - the final throw of the end which is often crucial - as his final stone was just a little too heavy in delivery.

In a fraught third end, Greg Drummond rescued a poor first throw with his second effort but the Canadian curlers added another three to the scoreline to turn the screw just that little bit more.

Murdoch was finding it tough and his first shot in the fourth end cleared the house and his last was also below-par which gave Canada a steal of one to make it 6-1 and although GB pulled a point back in the fifth, the gold medal was way out of reach by then.

The Canadians were relentless, making it 8-2 with hammer in the sixth as skip Brad Jacobs slid his final stone towards the unguarded button and Murdoch compounded a miserable performance in the next end, when again, an overly-heavy shot turned a probable two into a one.

When Canada stretched their lead by one in the ninth it was enough for Murdoch, who signalled that the game was over.

Ukraine stormed to gold in the women's 4x6km team biathlon, finishing 26.4 seconds ahead of nearest challengers Russia.

Olena Pidhrushna, on the anchor leg for Ukraine, hit every target in the final shoot to race clear of Russia's Olga Vilukhina down the stretch.

Norway came home in bronze medal position, 37.6 seconds behind the Ukrainians.

Marielle Thompson underlined her status as favourite for the women's ski cross by taking gold at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

The 21-year-old Canadian capped a fantastic season, that has seen her secure two wins and four podiums from seven World Cup races, by topping the standings in Sochi with a deserved victory, where she came first in all four of her races on Friday.

Compatriot Kelsey Serwa was on Thompson's heels for the entirety of the final but had to settle for silver, while Sweden's Anna Holmlund took bronze.

Ophelie David could not end her career with an Olympics medal after crashing midway through the course and finishing fourth.

France's David, world champion in 2007 and four times winner of the prestigious Winter X Games, was the oldest competitor in this event at 37 and had looked on course for a much-awaited Olympics podium, but stumbled over in the showpiece event.

Meanwhile, Anna Woerner and Stephanie Joffroy both had to be led away on stretchers in their respective quarter-finals in rainy and foggy conditions.

Germany's Woerner failed to complete the course after a high-speed crash and appeared to suffer a serious knee injury, while Joffroy of Chile also looked to have injured her leg after stumbling over in the very next heat.

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