Shiffrin skis out of Olympic slalom
Shiffrin became the youngest slalom gold medalist in 2014
Special to the Sierra Sun
The number seven is starting to hold significance for Mikaela Shiffrin at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but not in a positive way. The 26-year-old drew bib No. 7 Wednesday just as she had for Monday’s giant slalom, and for the second consecutive event, she was disqualified after skiing out of the course in the first run.
Shiffrin’s outside left ski slid out of the fourth gate where she lost her balance and swung wide off of the fifth gate. She then skied out for her second disqualification in an event in three days.
“I think I just slipped at — I mean, I had every intention to go full-gas and there wasn’t really space in the course to slip, not even a little bit,” she told NBC reporters after the race.
“I didn’t give myself space for that. And, in my experience, that mentality has brought my best game, and today I went out on the fifth gate.”
The 26-year-old had her first ski out in a giant slalom in four years during Monday’s giant slalom, a streak encompassing 30 races. “I won’t ever get over this,” she told the Associated Press after that race. “I’ve never gotten over any.” Thirty of the 80 entrants failed to finish on the icy course. Shiffrin remained off to the side of the course well after her fall on Wednesday, trying to console herself as other athletes continued racing.
When asked what she is still processing after Wednesday’s race, an emotional Shiffrin told NBC, “Pretty much everything. Makes me second guess like the last 15 years. Everything I thought I knew about my own skiing and slalom and racing mentality. Just processing a lot for sure. And I feel really bad. There’s a lot more going on today than just my little ol’ situation, but I feel really bad for doing that.”
The three-time World Cup overall champion is expected to contest all of the Olympic Alpine events in China, but the slalom, where she has a record 47 World Cup wins, is her specialty. It is also the event where she has the most competition.
Her main rival, Petra Vlhova, who has won five of the seven slaloms during the World Cup season (her two seconds were to Shiffrin) also struggled in her first run. She lost most of her time in the grippy snow along the flatter top half of the course. As the bottom steepened, she gained a few tenths of a second back, but didn’t show her characteristic form and sat in eighth going into the second run.
When Shiffrin won the slalom gold medal at the Sochi Games in 2014, she became the youngest slalom champion in Olympic alpine skiing history at 18 years and 345 days. She was the favorite to repeat in 2018, but finished fourth in a race won by Swede Frida Hansdotter, who retired in 2019. The silver and bronze medalists from those Games, Wendy Holdener and Katharina Liensberger, were in fifth and seventh place, respectively, after their first runs. Lena Duerr of Germany posted the fastest first run, finishing in 52.17 seconds.
Shiffrin is on a quest to make history at the Beijing Games. If she wins two gold medals, she would tie the Croatian Janica Kostelic for the most female Alpine skiing Olympic gold medals. Kostelic also owns the record for the most total medals, with six. The Edwards resident needs one medal of any color to tie Julia Mancuso for the most decorated American female Alpine skier.
Fellow American Paula Moltzan was sitting in sixth place, 0.62 seconds off the lead after her first run.
Ryan Sederquist is a reporter for the Vail Daily News, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at Rsederquist@vaildaily.com
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