Teen prodigy Robinson edges Shiffrin in World Cup opener

Sölden (Austria) (AFP) –


New Zealand's teenage sensation Alice Robinson pipped reigning champion Mikaela Shiffrin on Saturday to win the women's giant slalom in Soelden, the opening race of the skiing World Cup season.

Rising star Robinson, who is just 17 years old, was second in Austria after the first run, 0.14sec behind Shiffrin, but was faster than the American in the second run to finish 0.06sec ahead and secure the first World Cup win of her young career.

It was her second podium finish after her second place in Andorra in March.

"I'm pretty shocked," Robinson, who turns 18 in December, told Eurosport immediately after the victory. "Super happy! Super excited!"

Robinson was only 14th fastest in the second run but was quicker than Shiffrin and completed the two runs down the Rettenbach glacier in a time of 2min 17.36sec.

"I was a bit nervous in the second run but I held it together," Robinson. "I thought second would be ok."

But, she said, "I was like come on, go for it!"

"It's like a dream for me and I'm still in shock," she added later. "To be honest, I won by such a small margin against Mikaela, I still feel really lucky to stand here."

French skier Tessa Worley, sixth on the first run, grabbed a place on the podium with her second run finishing with a two-run total 0.36sec slower than Robinson.

Slovakian Petra Vlhova, who finished second to Shiffrin in the World Cup giant slalom standings last year, and beat the American in the World Championships, was 14th.

For one day at least, new prodigy Robinson dethroned the previous teenage marvel, gaining her first World Cup victory at 17 years, 10 months and 26 days, slighter older than Shiffrin when she won her first at 17 years, 9 months and 7 days.

"It's pretty cool," Robinson said. "That feels a bit different because I'm 17."

-- 'Really strong skier' --

The young New Zealander did not come out of nowhere. In February, she took giant slalom gold at the World Junior Championships and the following month she finished second in the giant slalom at the World Cup finals in Andorra, behind Shiffrin. She is an aggressive skier.

"You could see it already last year that she is going to be a really strong skier," said Shiffrin. "I really like the way she skis and I think it's exciting that she won today."

The traditional season-opener has been blighted by bad weather in recent years, with the men's races cancelled in both of the last two years.

After several editions marked by capricious weather, the Rettenbach glacier (at an altitude of 3,000m) was bathed in bright sunshine on mild autumn afternoon with a temperature of around 12 degrees.

"I liked the slope," said Robinson. "It was super warm."

The Sydney-born Robinson, who only stands 1.63m (5ft 3in) tall, said she was flying back to New Zealand on Monday to finish school.

"One more week of school," she said. "And then I'm done."

She attacks the slopes and became the third New Zealander, all women, to win a World Cup round after Annelise Coberger (1992) and Claudia Riegler (four wins in 1996 and 1997).

Robinson can offer Kiwis one victory on a day when England eliminated the All Blacks in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

"I'm pretty disappointed," Robinson said of the rugby. "But still happy for me."

The world skiing (FIS) web site reported that Austrian Bernadette Schild had to be airlifted off the course after a crash.