Pyeonchang 2018: Mikaela Shiffrin claims first gold of Olympics with giant slalom win

Mikaela Shiffrin kicked off her quest for five gold medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics with a victory in the women's giant slalom. Shiffrin sat second to Italy's Manuela Moelgg after the first run, but produced a time of 1:09.20 on her second run to overhaul the Italian.

She's just the third person in United States history to win a pair of Olympic gold medals in alpine skiing, joining Ted Ligety and Andrea Mead-Lawrence. Shiffrin defends her Olympic title in the slalom on Friday, a race she is the overwhelming favorite in.

Shiffrin puts in two brilliant runs to claim first gold in Pyeongchang

She ended up 0.39 seconds ahead of Ragnhlid Mowinckel of Norway Federica Brignone of Italy took bronze, 0.46 behind Shiffrin's combined time of 2 minutes, 20.02 seconds. Moelgg wound up eighth after a disastrous second run.

With weather postponing the giant slalom, originally scheduled for Monday, the weather was ideal as the race was finally able to go off. On Thursday morning, she was the seventh skier out of the gate, managing a time of 1:10.82. It was the second-best mark after the initial run and put Shiffrin in ideal position.

In her six career giant slalom wins, the 23-year old had never had to come from behind to win and although she trailed Moelgg by two tenths of a second heading into the second and final run, some of her biggest challengers were further down the leaderboard.

In between runs (which are four hours apart), Shiffrin said “I was loose, I put some of my good skiing from training in there but I also feel like I can go a little bit harder and there’s nothing to hold back for in the second run,”

Her second run time of 1:09.20 was the day’s fourth-fastest, but more than enough to defeat Moelgg, who made several mistakes in her second run as the Italian clocked a time of 1:10.58, good for 23rd best and well off of the podium.

American talks about giant slalom improvement following big win

This is Shiffrin's second straight podium in the giant slalom following a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships. She spoke to NBC's Andrea Joyce after the race.

"It's been a work-in-progress every season with giant slalom, it feels like I've been -- I've just come up short and there's always somebody else who's just a little better than I am, and it's actually the same thing this season.

"I'm third in the giant slalom standings and I've had some heartbreaking races but also some amazing races, but to come here and do that today was incredible. Of course now I have the slalom tomorrow, so I'm trying to, like, get the emotions under control and focus again.

"To be honest, it's incredible but for me the biggest thing is with my GS, it's so special in how it's been building this year, and since Sochi. "I got fifth in Sochi, I was two-tenths off the podium, and I thought, I'm not the best GS skier so I don't deserve to win a gold medal or even a medal in GS.

"At that time I set a goal to, you know, become the best GS skier in the world, and some of my GS skiing right now, it's so incredible and to be able to put a run, that run I was really taking risks and fighting for it and I'm so happy for that."

She's just the fourth American woman to win the giant slalom at the Olympics, joining Mead-Lawrence in 1952, Debbie Armstrong in 1984 and Julia Mancuso in 2006.