LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin delivered an astonishing second run to overtake Tina Maze and clinch the World Cup slalom title with an improbable come-from behind victory Saturday.
The American teenager trailed Maze by a massive 1.17 seconds after the first leg, and needed to finish ahead of the Slovenian to win the slalom crystal globe in her first full season on the circuit.
Shiffrin, who was fourth in the morning, had a tentative start to the second run but blazed down the bottom part of course for the fastest time of the afternoon.
When first-run leader Maze crossed the line in third, Shiffrin put her hands to her face and sank to her knees in the finish area with tears in her eyes. Bernadette Schild of Austria was second in the race, 0.20 behind Shiffrin's combined time of 1 minute, 55.60 seconds. Maze trailed by 0.35.
"I'm excited to reach my goals. It's amazing," said Shiffrin, who also won the slalom world championship title last month. "I am still trying to find my best skiing but this was my best run of the season."
Maze had already clinched the overall World Cup title along with the giant slalom and super-G disciplines but was still visibly distraught at letting slip such a big lead to Shiffrin. While the American paraded her crystal globe in front of photographers, Maze stood with her head buried in her arm, sobbing.
Shiffrin was quick to pay tribute to her rival, who set a new World Cup points record in one of the most dominating seasons the sport has seen.
"I actually want to thank Tina Maze," Shiffrin said. "She's probably going to punch me after this, but she's been very inspiring and helped me get to where I am."
Maze led Shiffrin by seven points in the slalom standings going into the race, and seemed to have wrapped up the title after taking such a big lead in the first run.
So how did Shiffrin steady her nerves to put down such an impressive run in the second?
"I didn't," she said. "I was freaking out. Oh my God, I was freaking out."
Shiffrin's mother Eileen was also nervous as she watched on, clapping enthusiastically as she leaned over a railing in a quiet VIP zone at the edge of the finish area.
"Un-be-lievable," Eileen Shiffrin told The Associated Press seconds after her daughter was declared champion. "She dug so deep in that second run. Oh my God, she finally skied the way she can ski."
Shiffrin, who turned 18 Wednesday, is the first American woman to be World Cup slalom champion since Tamara McKinney in 1984. She finished with 688 points, to Maze's 655.
With her victory, she went a long way to fulfilling predictions that she can follow teammate Lindsey Vonn as a superstar in Alpine racing and be one of the big profiles at next year's Sochi Olympics.
Vonn was 20 when she won her first World Cup race, 23 when she secured her first season-long World Cup title in any discipline, and 24 before winning her first major gold medal, at the 2009 world championships.
Shiffrin already has that trio of accolades three days after her 18th birthday.
The Vail, Colorado, native is the youngest World Cup slalom title winner since Christa Zechmeister of West Germany 39 years ago.