MERIBEL, France (Reuters) - Mikaela Shiffrin snatched her fifth victory of the season at the Meribel World Cup finals on Saturday to secure her third straight slalom crystal globe.
The American world and Olympic champion fought back from a 0.07-second deficit in the morning run to beat closest rival Frida Hansdotter of Sweden by 0.05 seconds after the afternoon leg.
Shiffrin beat Hansdotter by 110 points in the final slalom standings, while Slovenia’s Tina Maze was third, 240 adrift.
“I had a bit of a crisis in the beginning of the season and I wasn’t used to these kind of problems. We found the right set-up during the Christmas break. I learnt a lot from this season,” Shiffrin said.
“I would never have made it on my own. After all, I’m only 20. I’m lucky to be surrounded by the right people,” she added, admitting she had been inspired by Lindsey Vonn's sensational return from injury this season.
With Vonn claiming the Super-G and downhill World Cup titles, the two Americans have taken three of the four individual discipline crystal globes.
Maze finished fourth in the final slalom of the winter, 0.47 seconds off the pace.
She has regained the advantage in the overall World Cup title battle and holds an 18-point lead over Austrian Anna Fenninger ahead of Sunday’s final showdown in the giant slalom.
Last season's winner Fenninger made the bold move of entering her first World Cup slalom since 2011 in an effort to put pressure on the 2013 World Cup champion, but she finished 23rd and failed to score points.
“Everybody knew it wouldn’t be easy for me today. I’m glad I finished the race. Yesterday I trained for the giant slalom, focusing on Sunday’s race,” Fenninger said.
It is set to be a tense finale as Fenninger is the giant slalom world champion while Maze is the discipline’s Olympic gold medallist.
“I don’t look at what Maze is doing. I must look at tomorrow’s race as just another race,” Fenninger added.
Reporting by Manuele Lang; Writing by Francois Thomazeau; editing by Toby Davis