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Mikaela Shiffrin wins emotional World Cup giant slalom race

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United States' Mikaela Shiffrin is embraced by France's Tessa Worley, right, at finish area after completing an alpine ski women's World Cup giant slalom in Courchevel, France, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati)

COURCHEVEL – An emotional Mikaela Shiffrin won her first World Cup ski race since the death of her father nearly a year ago.

Shiffrin protected her first-run lead in Monday's giant slalom and finished 0.82 seconds ahead of Federica Brignone. Former world champion Tessa Worley was 1.09 behind in third place in the sun-splashed French Alps.

It was Shiffrin's first victory since January — one week before the death of her father.

Returning to Europe to compete this season, the American skier has spoken of her feelings of sadness and anger, and often searching for motivation. She was at first subdued Monday after crossing the line and seeing she had secured her 67th World Cup victory, tying her for third on the all-time list.

When her name was announced over the loudspeakers at the post-race podium ceremony, Shiffrin crouched in the snow and appeared to be sobbing.

She conducted a television interview minutes later and initially was unable to compose her words.

“It’s pretty hard to explain. Ninety-five percent of me felt that I couldn’t do it and then just a small bit of me at the right time and I was ...,” Shiffrin said, her words trailing away. “It’s crazy to be back here.”

She was greeted in the finish area by Brignone, who won the overall World Cup title last season after Shiffrin stopped racing to be with her family in Colorado.

Brignone was in third place after the morning run and had a fast second run going. After a mistake at a left-hand turn, she slid and recovered her balance with much of her left arm scraping the snow.

Television microphones in the finish area picked up Brignone lamenting her “stupid” error.

After the race, Brignone and Worley spoke warmly of their rival.

“I think she's really strong,” Brignone told Austrian broadcaster ORF, describing Shiffrin as “the best skier in the world. She's technically almost perfect.”

Worley said she “just wanted to hug" Shiffrin.

“I was so, so proud and happy for her,” Worley said. "I can't even imagine what she has been through.”

Shiffrin's father, Jeff, was a familiar figure on the World Cup circuit, often attending and photographing his daughter's races. Her mother, Eileen, is part of her coaching and support team and came to hug her daughter after the race.

“I definitely didn't ski alone today,” Shiffrin told ORF. “I had a lot of strength from a lot of people. It's a bit bittersweet.”

Marta Bassino’s bid for a third straight giant slalom victory this season ended when she skied out in her second run just before Shiffrin started.

World Cup leader Petra Vlhova went out in the morning run in a tricky section four gates from the finish.

Shiffrin tied Marcel Hirscher for third in World Cup wins, and now trails only Lindsey Vonn with 82 and Ingemar Stenmark with 86.

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