Mikaela Shiffrin faces stiff competition from rivals in women’s giant slalom.

Mikaela Shiffrin’s quest to set several Olympic records at the Beijing Games begins with the women’s giant slalom on Monday (Sunday night in the United States). Shiffrin, the defending champion in the event, is one of a handful of gold medal contenders in the race but by no means the runaway favorite.

An overarching story line of the women’s World Cup circuit this season has been a hotly contested duel between Shiffrin and her chief rival, Petra Vlhova of Slovakia. Vlhova has for several years been chasing Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic champion and the winner of 73 World Cup races, and she ascended last year to her first World Cup overall title. This season, Vlhova has won five World Cup races and finished in second place four times. Shiffrin has four victories and four second-place finishes.

But it is Sara Hector of Sweden who has been the most consistent giant slalom racer this season. After spending seven years rehabilitating a serious knee injury, Hector has won three of five giant slaloms and leads the current rankings.

Shiffrin has three medals from two previous Games and would tie Julia Mancuso for the most Olympic medals by an American woman if she reaches the podium on Monday. Bode Miller holds the overall U.S. record with six Olympic medals. Six is also the career record for most Olympic medals by a woman, which was accomplished by Janica Kostelic of Croatia and Anja Parson of Sweden.

Another contender for the gold medal in the women’s race on Monday is Tessa Worley of France, who, like Hector, is a giant slalom specialist.

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