Dominant Shiffrin takes World Cup slalom in Finland

Mikaela Shiffrin swept to victory in the World Cup slalom in Levi

American star Mikaela Shiffrin claimed her first win of the World Cup season by cruising to victory in the slalom in Levi on Saturday.

The 23-year-old also seized the early lead in the overall standings after finishing third in the season-opening giant slalom at Soelden last month with her 33rd World Cup slalom win, moving to within two of Marlies Schild's all-time record.

Shiffrin is bidding for a third consecutive overall Crystal Globe.

Slovakia's Petra Vlhova, who won the race in Finland last year, finished 0.58 seconds behind Shiffrin's combined time of 1:32.61, after failing to capitalise on a strong start and losing time in the second and third sectors of the course.

Bernadette Schild of Austria was third in 1:33.40.

Shiffrin's win is her third at Levi and marks a promising start to the campaign for the Olympic giant slalom champion.

"I was even surprised at how good the course felt with the warm conditions. The snow held up really well, and I was able to really push," Shiffrin told the FIS website.

"I had a little bit of a scary moment on the top of the pitch, but I kept fighting and made it to the finish. That was fun.

"It's the first race of the season, so there's some nerves, there's some excitement. Nobody knows how fast they are. So it's always a really nice challenge, and it's a nice slope."

The American has won five of the past six World Cup slalom titles, and also claimed a maiden downhill win at Lake Louise last year.

Blustery, head-on winds meant the start of the competition was delayed while organisers moved the starting line lower down the slope. But fears that the Levi stage would have to be cancelled following an unseasonably warm autumn proved unfounded.

Sweden's Frida Hansdotter, who won slalom gold at this year's Pyeongchang Olympics, went into the second run just 0.14 seconds behind Shiffrin, but slid to fourth with an aggregate 1:33.42.

The men's slalom will take place on Sunday, and will serve as the opening event of their World Cup season in place of Soelden, where the men's giant was cancelled last month due to heavy overnight snowfall.

Last year's winner at Levi, Felix Neureuther, announced on Saturday he will not race because of a broken thumb.