Mikaela Shiffrin wins overall World Cup title for second year in a row

OFTERSCHWANG, Germany -- Mikaela Shiffrin won her second straight overall World Cup title Friday, five races before the end of the season.

The Olympic champion finished third in a giant slalom race won by Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway.

Even before her final run, Shiffrin was guaranteed of winning the title because her only remaining rival, Wendy Holdener, failed to finish in the top two, which she needed to maintain her mathematical title chance. The Swiss skier finished 14th.

"That's really exciting, for sure. It's hard to explain that feeling really," said Shiffrin, who holds a 603-point lead over Holdener in the overall standings. "To have the overall locked in now before going to Are is pretty cool."

The season-ending World Cup finals are next week in Are, Sweden.

Shiffrin is the second American female skier to win multiple overall titles. Lindsey Vonn won the sport's most coveted prize four times.

Shiffrin was a clear favorite to successfully defend her maiden overall title when she won the first five races of 2018.

However, she failed to win a race after triumphing at a night slalom in Flachau, Austria, on Jan. 9. A dip in form during her last five races before the Pyeongchang Olympics saw her failing to finish three times and placing seventh twice.

In South Korea, she won Olympic gold in the giant slalom and silver in the combined event but missed out on a medal in her strongest discipline, the slalom.

"It's been a big battle for me mentally to know exactly where my focus should be," Shiffrin said Friday. "The best thing for me now is to have the crystal globe already locked in. I can really just enjoy the last races and not have to fight for points to win the globe."

In her first race after the Olympics, Shiffrin was fourth after the opening run but improved a spot to third, 0.74 seconds behind Mowinckel. It was the Norwegian's first career win.

Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany finished 0.66 behind in second and closed in on the season title in the discipline. With one race remaining, she leads world giant slalom champion Tessa Worley by 92 points in the discipline standings.

Friday's result stretched Rebensburg's lead over Shiffrin to 101 points, leaving the American out of contention for the giant slalom title.

Shiffrin could add another discipline globe this weekend, holding a 175-point lead over Petra Vlhova of Slovakia going into the penultimate slalom race of the season Saturday.

"For sure, I have a big lead," Shiffrin said. "But nothing is impossible, so I am going to stay focused."

Friday's race was interrupted after Tina Robnik crashed and had to be taken off the hill on a sled with an apparent knee injury. There was no immediate update on the Slovenian skier's condition.