It was a day of surprises at the Yongpyong Alpine Center for the Olympic Women’s slalom on Friday. Ultra-grippy snow and sunshine, although at first glance seem to be ideal racing conditions, proved to be quite the challenge for the women’s slalom field.
The odds-on favorite entering Friday’s slalom and riding high after capturing giant slalom gold on Thursday, American Mikaela Shiffrin had the eyes of the ski racing world on her once again. No woman has ever successfully defended an Olympic slalom title and Shiffrin was no different as the superstar faltered and finished a disappointing fourth in her hands-down best event.
Taking full advantage of Shiffrin’s missteps, 32-year-old Swede Frida Hansdotter raced her way to Olympic gold, skiing aggressive and tactical down the challenging Yongpyong slope. Finishing a slim 0.05 seconds behind Hansdotter for silver was Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener and bronze went to another surprise of the day, Austria’s Katharina Gallhuber.
“I really went for it,” Hansdotter said of her performance. “I was standing at the start and saw it was windy and just said, ‘It’s so fun racing, so why don’t you give it a try?’ I was just trying to really ski fast second run.”
Hansdotter has finished in second place no less than 17 times in World Cup slalom throughout a career that has spanned across the reigns of two slalom superstars — Austria’s Marles Schild and, of course, Shiffrin. After years of patiently waiting for her opportunity to shine, the Swede did it on the biggest stage imaginable.
“Mikaela is such a talented skier and she did so good yesterday (in the GS) also, but for sure it’s nice for me to beat her for once because she’s been beating me so many times so I’m really happy about this,” she continued. “It’s amazing. I love ski racing and I try to do what I love and ski as good as I can and put away the pressure and just enjoy my day and that’s what I did today. I was really standing at the start with a smile on my face, so that was the winning thing for me today.”
Holdener was feeling the pressure on Friday as the Swiss hopes for a women’s medal in the tech events rested squarely on her. Also someone who has played second-fiddle to Shiffrin a number of times in the past, Holdener would have preferred gold, but will happily take a silver home to Switzerland.
“I had a lot of pressure on me, I was the last one on top,” she said. “I knew what could happen but I also knew what could go wrong. If you are the last one on the start and you know you can win or get a medal, it’s not that easy to bring it home. I didn’t ski as good as I could in the second run. My legs weren’t that fast.”
Gallhuber, on the other hand, has yet to finish higher than fifth in a World Cup in her young career. Only 20-years-old, the Austrian set the fastest second-run time and is definitely a name to watch in the coming years as another potential challenger to Shiffrin’s slalom dominance.
“I can’t believe it,” Gallhuber said after the race. “I am speechless. I did not expect it. I have not been on the podium before. It feels like a dream, I hope it’s real. I have no words for this moment. My second run was really good. I stood on the start and thought, ‘All in,’ because I was really far behind.”
For Shiffrin, pre-race nerves got the best of her as she was spotted vomiting behind the start tent before her first run. Shiffrin’s skiing wasn’t necessarily bad, in fact, it was quite good, but certainly lacked the trademark Shiffrin oomph that we have grown so accustomed to seeing over the past several years.
“Disappointed for sure,” Shiffrin shared. “I didn’t really feel like myself today. I did a lot of training runs, a lot of free skiing, I was trying to get my really good feeling back but it just wasn’t there today to ski the aggressive way I need to to be worthy of a medal. There are a lot of reasons. It’s hard to put the blame on any one thing, there are a lot of things that come together to make it so I don’t feel really good or feel the way I did today, it’s just one of those things. It’s life. You live and you learn. Somebody has to be in fourth place, it’s OK.”
It’s all too easy to just say that Shiffrin did not live up to expectations on Friday, but you’d be missing the bigger picture entirely. At only 22-years-old, there’s still a lot of very fast skiing that Shiffrin has in store for us. You can count on that.
After Shiffrin for the Americans was Megan McJames in 36th place and Alice Merryweather in 42nd. Unfortunately, Resi Stiegler did not finish her first run and is currently undergoing further evaluation for a suspected left-knee injury. A diagnosis has not been made available at the time of publishing.
The women are now set to race super-G on Saturday, Feb. 17.
- Frida Hansdotter (SWE) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Wendy Holdener (SUI) – Head/Head/Head
- Katharina Gallhuber (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Anna Swenn Larsson (SWE) – Head/Head/Head
- Nina Haver-Loeseth (NOR) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Bernadette Schild (AUT) – Head/Head/Head
- Katharina Liensberger (AUT) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Chiara Costazza (ITA) – Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Irene Curtoni (ITA) – Rossignol/Lange/Look
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|5||5||506146||SWENN LARSSON Anna||1991||SWE||49.29||50.32||1:39.61||+0.98||7.15|
|17||8||705287||VELEZ ZUZULOVA Veronika||1984||SVK||51.46||50.61||1:42.07||+3.44||25.11|
|41||48||255357||EINARSDOTTIR Freydis Halla||1994||ISL||56.49||56.66||1:53.15||+14.52||106.00|
|48||77||395022||JOGEVA Anna Lotta||1999||EST||1:00.90||59.61||2:00.51||+21.88||159.72|
|53||74||245076||MAROTY Mariann Mimi||1998||HUN||1:09.95||1:02.83||2:12.78||+34.15||249.30|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|27||197319||BAUD MUGNIER Adeline||1992||FRA||52.65|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|65||959003||NG Arabella Caroline Yili||2001||HKG|
|76||516455||SCHENKEL Alexia Arisarah||1996||THA|