Sports

A SUPERSTAR IS BORN

Not long after Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest woman to win an Olympic gold in slalom, she paused to consider how her life might change.

"Maybe it won't change too much, maybe it will just change in the way I want it to change," she said. "I'm going to still be the same girl and still be looking for speed on the mountain."

Undoubtedly so.

But Shiffrin's life is about to change in other significant ways.

At 18, and as poised as she is talented, Shiffrin is a marketer's dream, experts say.

"She could become the Golden Girl of the Winter Games," said Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising, who analyses athletes' endorsement potential.

"She could be a major story for the next two to three Winter Games. Marketers are always looking for athletes with staying power - especially in the case of Olympians, with their 'one month on, four years off story arcs."

Fairytales usually have a dark twist somewhere, however, and so it proved for the American.

Shiffrin described as "terrifying" the moment she almost blew the gold after zig-zagging into the record books on Friday.

With her idol Marlies Schild of Austria waiting below in the gold-medal position after a masterful second run down the floodlit Rosa Khutor slope, clear first-leg leader Shiffrin blasted out of the start with gold seemingly in her pocket.

CLOSE SHAVE

She lost balance halfway down, momentarily lurching wildly on one ski, before snapping back into shape and surging across the line 0.53sec ahead.

"That was really terrifying," a smiling Shiffrin said. "There I was thinking I'm going to win my first gold medal and then it was like, 'guess not!'.

"But I said don't give up on this now, see this through."

Already a world champion, the teenager from Colorado, who won her first World Cup race aged 17, has helped fill the American void left by Lindsey Vonn, who missed the Games because of a serious knee injury.

With her bubbly personality, pretty face and the ability to ski "like on train tracks", according to Schild, Shiffrin is well on the way to replacing Vonn as the new face of US women's Alpine skiing. - Wire Services.