Although Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin might not yet be a household name in the ski racing world like Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn, or even her teammate Wendy Holdener, the 24-year-old Swiss racer stunned the world on Thursday by taking the gold medal in the women’s alpine combined.
The final individual women’s alpine event of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, the combined event once again took place at the Jeongseon alpine center. With a run of downhill in the morning and a run of slalom on the lower portion of the downhill track in the afternoon, it was a test of speed and technical proficiency as it was anyone’s race to take.
Gisin sat in third after a sunny and fast morning downhill run, 0.77 seconds behind Vonn who set the pace in the downhill. Silver medalist Shiffrin sat in sixth, nearly a full two seconds behind and eventual bronze medalist Holdener found herself a whopping 2.74 seconds off the pace in 10th place.
Anyone who has followed the combined event over the past several season knows that literally anything can happen once the slalom run starts, and Thursday was no different.
After the usual reshuffling of the results as the second run was underway, Holdener held nothing back and laid down the gauntlet, crossing the line with the fastest slalom run time and a healthy leading margin. Skier after skier couldn’t match her pace until Shiffrin stepped into the gate and was able to take the lead, although losing much of her advantage from the downhill run in the process. When Gisin took to the course, it was aggressive yet smooth skiing that sealed the deal as she was able to cross the line with and advantage of 0.97 seconds.
After Vonn straddled a gate mid-way down her slalom run, the gold was Gisin’s.
“Totally confused, happy, stoked on that,” she shared after the race. “It’s insane; it didn’t really sink in already. These were the craziest 20-some hours I’ve ever had in my life and last couple of weeks were so tough with all the program changes for me doing the speed events and the slalom and everything. I don’t feel like I’ve had a day off in Korea yet and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow to just relax for a day. I didn’t feel I could make that slalom. I have to be honest because I was struggling so bad with the slalom the whole season. Today was the day to finally put all the pieces together in the slalom and that was the key.”
After a heartbreaking fourth-place finish in the slalom — her bread-and-butter event — Shiffrin took some time off racing. After skipping the super-G and downhill races in favor of rest and training, the American superstar was able to walk away with her second medal of the games.
“It feels good,” Shiffrin said. “It’s a nice way to end the Olympics. I started off with a bang and ending with a medal on the podium is really cool. I came into these Olympics knowing I could be a medal threat in multiple disciplines. I didn’t even know how many I would ski. After the gold in the giant slalom I was really hopeful and positive, then I had a tougher day in the slalom but it still feels good though. It’s a pressure I put on myself, but I have an incredible amount of support from fans, friends and family.”
It was also Holdener’s second medal of the games after her slalom silver. Delighted to find herself on the podium once more with her good friend Gisin, Holdener is now looking towards the team event. The Swiss is also the reigning World Champion in combined.
“It’s amazing to be on the podium for the second time in these Olympics, and today I can celebrate with Michelle,” said Holdener. “She’s a good friend of mine and last year I was in front in some races and it’s so nice to celebrate with her. She just skied so good today. At the moment it feels great, I’m just really happy I gave everything I had and it’s so nice that it worked out. I thought I’d come in fourth so I am surprised.”
After Shiffrin in second and Vonn’s second-run DNF, Alice Merryweather enjoyed her first Olympic top-15 finish in a solid 15th.
Next on the schedule is the parallel team event scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 24.
- Michelle Gisin (SUI) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Wendy Holdener (SUI) – Head/Head/Head
- Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR) – Head/Head/Head
- Petra Vlhova (SVK) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Valerie Grenier (CAN) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Ramona Siebenhofer (AUT) – Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
- Federica Brignone (ITA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Denise Feierabend (SUI) – Head/Head/Head
- Marta Bassino (ITA) – Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Disqualified 2nd run|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|