United States’ Mikaela Shiffrin leaves after finishing the first run of the women’s slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21,
United States' Mikaela Shiffrin leaves after finishing the first run of the women's slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Christophe Ena) (Christophe Ena)

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) -- Mikaela Shiffrin, who has family ties in the Berkshires, made Alpine skiing history Friday as the youngest ever winner of an Olympic slalom gold medal.

The 18-year-old American protected her lead from an impressive first run to win in 1 minute, 54 seconds. She finished 0.53 seconds faster than veteran Marlies Schild of Austria, one of Shiffrin's childhood favorites.

Kathrin Zettel of Austria took bronze, trailing 0.81 behind Shiffrin.

Shiffrin took the record for youngest Olympic slalom champion, male or female, from Paoletta Magoni of Italy, who won gold at the 1984 Sarajevo Games when she was 19.

Schriffin completed a full set of slalom honors - Olympic and world championship gold medals and a season-long World Cup discipline title - before her 19th birthday next month.

Shiffrin's mother grew up in Lanesborough, in the family home where her grandmother, Pauline Condron, still lives.

The racers skied under floodlights in the fading late-afternoon light.

At 18, Shiffrin is the first American women's slalom champion in 42 years, since Barbara Cochran won at the 1972 Sapporo Olympics.

Shiffrin, the current world champion and World Cup title holder in slalom, had been expected to produce a gold medal display.

Her mother, Eileen, said the racer had caught "a pretty bad cold" at the Olympics.

Still, Shiffrin said she was relaxed approaching her main event despite a frustrating fifth-place finish in the giant slalom on Tuesday.

"There were a couple of points throughout the day where I was like, ‘Oh, my God. Here we go,"' said Shiffrin, mimicking heavy breathing. "But, no, I was relaxed in the start, and that was awesome."

She said quick footwork on her skis through a tighter-than-usual gate setting was the key to her fast time in the first run.