Five days into the 2018 Olympics and after several delays due to weather, the women finally got to racing with the giant slalom at the Yongpyong Alpine Center. American superstar Mikaela Shiffrin, skiing with the weight of multiple gold-medal expectations, came through in a big way, capturing her first medal of the PyeongChang Games in come-from-behind fashion, winning GS gold.
The wind that has plagued the start of the alpine events was not an issue on Thursday, but the first run course setting by the Italians was a challenging, very turny set. Perhaps shaking off some Olympic nerves, Shiffrin sat in second behind Italian Veteran Manuela Moelgg after the opening run.
A slightly more open second run provided the opportunity for Shiffrin to take the risk needed to walk away with the win. A small bobble nearing the finish notwithstanding, the American was near perfect en route to her second career Olympic title. Normally subdued in the finish, when she knew she had gold, the American dropped to her knees and let the tears flow.
“To be honest, it’s incredible,” Shiffrin shared after her win. “The biggest thing is with my GS, it’s so special with how it’s been building this year and since Sochi. I got fifth in Sochi and was two-tenths off the podium and thought, ‘I am not the best GS skier so I don’t deserve to win a gold medal, or even a medal in GS.’ At that time, I set a goal to become the best GS skier in the world. To be able to put down a run that was really taking risk and fighting for it, I’m so happy for that.”
Shiffrin has struggled – if you could even call it that – some in the past with her GS, with dominant wins on the World Cup interspersed with more pedestrian performances. Shiffrin admitted that her GS has been a big project for her since her disappointment four years ago in Sochi.
“It’s been a work in progress every season with giant slalom,” she explained. “It feels like I’ve just come up short (in the past) and there’s always somebody else who’s just a little bit better than I am. It’s actually the same thing this season. I’m third in the giant slalom standings and I’ve had some heartbreaking races and some amazing races but to come here and do that today was incredible.”
Looking at Thursday’s result, it seems that Shiffrin was able to get right back into shape after her mini-crisis of three DNFs in her last four races before the Olympics. Additionally, she managed all the mental hurdles of weather problems and rescheduling of races quite well.
The surprise of the day went to Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel. The Norwegian captured her country’s first women’s Olympic alpine medal since 1936 when Laila Schou Nilsen finished third in the combined in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
“So many emotions, I can’t really – I’m kind of speechless,” an elated Mowinckel said. “It’s unreal, then it’s real, then it’s just like I’m so happy. I’m just happy that I could put together two runs. This is finally coming together as a result of many years doing this. I’ve been close so many times before, but it’s not really been two runs that are good enough. But now I finally feel this season is the season I kind of placed bits together and I’m getting more runs that are high quality and stable.”
Bronze medalist Federica Brignone of Italy admitted to some pre-race pressure given how dominant the Italian women have been in GS over the past few seasons.
“Actually it was a lot of pressure on us too,” she said. “They say we’re the strongest team, the Italian team is really strong, they expect from us a lot of medals. I don’t know, I think my head is going to explode and my heart too. It’s pretty tough right now but I’m so happy.”
Moelgg was not able to match her pace from the first run and fell to eighth place after her second run.
France’s Tessa Worley, one of the top GS favorites heading into the Games and reigning World Champion, skied too aggressive in the opening run, causing too many mistakes that added up to a deficit of 1.44 seconds after her first run. Despite a valiant effort in the second run, the Frenchwoman could only muster a seventh-place finish.
Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg was also shooting for her third Olympic GS medal in a row after her gold in Vancouver 2010 and bronze in Sochi 2014. Although she has won three world Cup GS races this season and currently leads the GS standings, the German fell short with a fourth-place finish.
“My mistake from the first run was too much today; the hill and the conditions, not being icy, did not allow to really separate yourself,” Rebensburg said. “If it would be a World Cup race the fourth place would be solid, but it’s not. I think I need a bit to let today’s race sink in.”
For the rest of the Americans, Megan McJames finished 31st, Resi Stiegler 36th, and Patricia Mangan did not finish her first run.
The women now race slalom on Friday, Feb. 16, where Shiffrin is the odds-on favorite.
- Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Ragnhild Mowinckel (NOR) – Head/Head/Head
- Federica Brignone (ITA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Viktoria Rebensburg (GER) – Stoeckli/Lange
- Marta Bassino (ITA) – Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
- Frida Hansdotter (SWE) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Tessa Worley (FRA) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Manuela Moelgg (ITA) – Dynastar/Lange/Look
- Wendy Holdener (SUI) – Head/Head/Head
- Sara Hector (SWE) – Head/Head/Head
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points|
|20||25||197319||BAUD MUGNIER Adeline||1992||FRA||1:12.89||1:11.04||2:23.93||+3.91||27.37|
|56||74||959003||NG Arabella Caroline Yili||2001||HKG||1:27.25||1:23.29||2:50.54||+30.52||213.61|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|60||255357||EINARSDOTTIR Freydis Halla||1994||ISL||1:20.02|
|Disqualified 2nd run|
|77||245076||MAROTY Mariann Mimi||1998||HUN||1:29.74|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|75||516455||SCHENKEL Alexia Arisarah||1996||THA|
|80||395022||JOGEVA Anna Lotta||1999||EST|
|Disqualified 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|
|59||465098||CAILL Ania Monica||1995||ROU|