Alpine skiing: Shiffrin climbs podium on return to World Cup circuit

Alpine Skiing - FIS Ski World Cup - Levi - Women's Slalom - Kittila, Finland - November 21, 2020 Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. in action Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Double Olympic gold medallist Mikaela Shiffrin marked her return to the Alpine ski World Cup circuit after a gap of 300 days with a second-placed finish in the slalom in Levi, Finland, on Saturday.

The 25-year-old American missed last month’s season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, with a back injury but showed no signs of the problem, finishing 0.18 seconds behind Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova who clocked a total of one minute 50.11 seconds after her two runs.

Austria’s Katharina Liensberger took third place.

"It felt like my first victory; it's a really special day," three-times World Cup overall champion Shiffrin, who last raced in January, told here.

Shiffrin had been set to return to competitive action in March for the final races of the 2019-20 season after taking more than a month out following the death of her father Jeff but the COVID-19 crisis ended the season prematurely.

“A good thing was that a lot of the feeling today was similar to what I felt in the past. Maybe that means I didn’t lose it all -- my ability to ski fast or to try to be strong and come back... be hungry and competitive,” she added.

“One of the big reasons I wanted to come back and race was to see if this was something I could still do. And we’re here and it was okay. I still enjoyed it. That’s good.”

The women will be back in action on Sunday for the second slalom race of the weekend.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon