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Mikaela Shiffrin fights illness to make history with fourth straight slalom world title

Mikaela Shiffrin had trouble breathing when she woke up Saturday morning. Later that day, she became the first skier in history to win four straight world titles in the same discipline at the FIS Alpine World Championships in Are, Sweden.

With the encouragement and support of her team, 23-year-old Shiffrin worked up the courage to complete the course. Battling a chest cold, Shiffrin told the Associated Press she "ran out of oxygen" halfway down the course. She described experiencing intense coughing and stomach spasms before the run. 

"A testament to her grittiness," Shiffrin's coach Jeff Lackie said. "What she was able to accomplish in that second run was nothing short of incredible."

When she crossed the finish line, Shiffrin took over the top spot by more than a second. She immediately collapsed onto the snow, coughing while trying to catch her breath. Sweden's Anna Swenn-Larsson skied next, finishing .58 seconds slower than Shiffrin to take second place. Wendy Holdener skied last, ultimately finishing in 17th, solidifying Shiffrin's fourth straight win in the women's slalom. Petra Vlhova from Slovakia came in third.

FIS World Ski Championships - Women's Slalom
Mikaela Shiffrin attempts to catch her breath after winning the gold medal in the women's slalom. Getty

"I knew I had to fight really hard the second run because Anna and Wendy are so strong," Shiffrin told NBC Sports, holding back tears. "The girls behind me were also really close. I just figured I have to be tough and try it and I just need sixty seconds to push, and I can do that for sixty seconds."

It's Shiffrin's second win at the world championships — she also took home the gold in the Super-G. She won bronze in the giant slalom, bringing her total medal count at the worlds to seven, only one away from the U.S. record held by Lindsey Vonn.

A few skiers have accomplished three straight wins: Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark and American skiers Ted Ligety and Bode Miller. German Christl Cranz holds four gold medals in a single event, but they were not consecutive. Shiffrin's fourth consecutive win further solidifies her place in skiing history.

Following her run, Shiffrin continued to praise her team for their part in her win. "In the moments that it counted, my team and I were able to focus on the true task and the reason we're here," she told the AP. "That's something special."