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Shiffrin makes good on gold

Mikaela Shiffrin during run one in Sochi (GEPA/Mario Kneisl)

Mikaela Shiffrin during run one in Sochi (GEPA/Mario Kneisl)

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia — With a half-second lead after the first run, Mikaela Shiffrin spiced things up in the second leg of the Olympic women’s slalom by nearly getting bucked out of the course and making an amazing recovery to claim gold on Friday night.

In doing so, the 18-year-old rose to the occasion amid the hype and expectations to become the youngest-ever Olympic gold medalist in women’s slalom. She became the first athlete from the United States to win the Olympic gold medal in the slalom since Phil Mahre in 1984 and the first woman since Barbara Ann Cochran in 1972.

“It’s tough to describe my feelings,” Shiffrin said moments after the win. “This has been a dream of mine for a very long time.”

Austrians Marlies Schild and Kathrin Zettel, who finished the first run sixth and seventh, respectively, were able to leapfrog a handful of contenders to snatch up the other two spots on the podium. The veterans were equally emotional with their results: Schild the silver and Zettel the bronze.

Shiffrin conquered the granular slush and choppy ruts that took other podium contenders, including Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Tina Maze, out of medal contention. For Shiffrin, it was something shy of flawless as she seemed to nearly give away the entire lead in a single turn, requiring a dynamic recovery off her inside ski and strong skiing through to the finish. Still, she held off Schild, who has two other Olympic slalom medals to her name, by just over a half-second. Hoefl-Riesch’s loss of balance just before hitting a flat section effectively ejected her from the podium, while Maze’s defensive second run was only good enough for eighth.

“It’ was a crazy moment,” Shiffrin said of the near-disaster in her second run. “I was going very fast, and I thought I was not going to make it. It scared me half to death.”

She wasn’t the only one who was scared.

“I thought it’s over,” said women’s tech coach Roland Pfiefer. “Sometimes Mikaela, for some reason when she is really hammering it, she gets a little in the backseat. She is overdoing it, letting the skis get a little hot, shooting out. So she overdid it in the second run, and that was brutal. I thought, it’s over. But luckily she was really ripping the top and it was just good enough to win.”

Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Schild, on the opposite end of the age spectrum from Shiffrin, became the oldest Olympic slalom medalist in history.

“After my first run I was very disappointed because I had such a bad feeling going down the hill. So I tried to change everything in the second run,” said Schild. “Of course, gold is missing but I am so happy to be on the podium here.”

For Zettel, who lost a grandmother two days ago, it’s been an emotional week. She said in the post-race press conference she knew this would be her last shot at an Olympic medal.

“What can I say, I knew there was a little chance after run one,” said Zettel. “I wasn’t super far behind the podium; the slope got better, and I put all my power and risk together, all into one run. … It’s been a horrible week, I had a lot of expectations and tears. … I am dedicating this medal to my grandmother. She would be proud of me and she is watching over me right now.”

Shiffrin, who also shared her first career podium with Schild, said the Austrian veteran has been an inspiration and a role model. “I’m just so excited to be able to share this moment with her,” Shiffrin said. “It seems like the first time I do anything, she’s there, and pushing me to do it. So I’m really proud of myself, and proud of her, and proud of Kathrin, and I’m proud to know we did that.”

Canadians Marie-Michele Gagnon and Brittany Phelan finished ninth and 15th, respectively, after making the most of the challenging second-run conditions. Those same conditions got the better of American Resi Stiegler, who straddled, lost a ski, and failed to finish. However, speed specialist Julia Ford put together a surprising top-25 result after starting from bib 50.

“I race slalom not as much as some of the other events, but I came on as a slalom skier,” said Ford. “It’s one of those things that comes back to me really fast. … It’s been an amazing experience. I feel really fortunate to be here and to be able to do this — and just keep improving over the next four years so I can come back and really be in there.”

“I knew second run sort of had to be an all-or-nothing sort of situation,” said Stiegler. “Obviously at the Olympics that’s what it should be. … I’m happy with the fact that my splits were fast. I felt good and I knew I was going fast.”

See more photos from the race here.

 

POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE

 

THE SCOOP

By Hank McKee

Women’s Olympic slalom, Sochi, Russia, Feb. 21, 2014. … It is the ninth of 10 alpine events at the 22nd Winter Olympics, the fifth of five for women. … It is the 35th Olympic slalom… the 18th for women. … There have been four U.S. Olympic slalom winners: Gretchen Fraser ’48, Andrea Mead Lawrence ’52, Barbara Cochran ’72 and Phil Mahre ’84. Austrians have won seven, Germans three, Canada one, Croatia one, Italy four, Liechtenstein one, Norway two, Spain one, Switzerland four and Sweden two. Maria Hoefl-Riesch is the defending gold medalist. It’s 37.6 degrees Fahrenheit at the start, 39.7 at the finish during first run; 32 at the start, 39.9 at the finish for second run.

It is the first Olympic medal for Mikaela Shiffrin. … The 44th in alpine for the U.S., the 16th gold and the fifth U.S. gold in slalom, the Olympic record for slalom gold. It is her fourth win of the season. She is now the reigning Olympic, World and World Cup slalom champion.

It is the fourth Olympic medal for Marlies Schild, her second straight slalom silver. … It is her fourth podium result of the season.

It is the first Olympic medal for Kathrin Zettel, though she had been fourth twice in combined, 2006 and 2010. … It is her second podium finish of the season, the first from Soelden Oct. 26. … She had been fourth three times this season.

It is the best of three Olympic results for Marie-Michelle Gagnon… the first Olympic finish for both Brittany Phelan and for Julia Ford.

Alpine medal count: Austria two gold, three silver, two bronze; Canada one bronze; Croatia one silver; France one silver, one bronze; Germany one gold, one silver, one bronze; Italy one silver, one bronze; Norway one gold, one bronze; Slovenia two gold; Switzerland two gold, one bronze; USA two gold, one silver, two bronze.

 

RESULTS 

Rank Bib FIS Code Name Year Nation Run 1 Run 2 Total Time Diff. FIS Points
 1  6  6535237 SHIFFRIN Mikaela 1995 USA  52.62  51.92  1:44.54  0.00
 2  7  55590 SCHILD Marlies 1981 AUT  53.96  51.11  1:45.07  +0.53  3.14
 3  12  55838 ZETTEL Kathrin 1986 AUT  54.00  51.35  1:45.35  +0.81  4.80
 4  3  206001 HOEFL-RIESCH Maria 1984 GER  53.11  52.62  1:45.73  +1.19  7.06
 5  4  505679 HANSDOTTER Frida 1985 SWE  54.05  51.85  1:45.90  +1.36  8.07
 6  21  506341 WIKSTROEM Emelie 1992 SWE  54.55  51.56  1:46.11  +1.57  9.31
 7  8  196806 NOENS Nastasia 1988 FRA  53.81  52.31  1:46.12  +1.58  9.37
 8  5  565243 MAZE Tina 1983 SLO  53.29  52.96  1:46.25  +1.71  10.14
 9  11  105269 GAGNON Marie-Michele 1989 CAN  54.32  53.05  1:47.37  +2.83  16.78
 10  14  155415 STRACHOVA Sarka 1985 CZE  55.14  52.25  1:47.39  +2.85  16.90
 11  9  506146 SWENN-LARSSON Anna 1991 SWE  54.58  53.33  1:47.91  +3.37  19.99
 12  16  185140 POUTIAINEN Tanja 1980 FIN  54.94  53.07  1:48.01  +3.47  20.58
 13  28  196793 MARMOTTAN Anemone 1988 FRA  57.08  51.88  1:48.96  +4.42  26.21
 14  22  205239 WIRTH Barbara 1989 GER  56.31  52.69  1:49.00  +4.46  26.45
 15  23  107068 PHELAN Brittany 1991 CAN  56.41  52.70  1:49.11  +4.57  27.10
 16  29  425887 LOESETH Mona 1991 NOR  56.82  52.62  1:49.44  +4.90  29.06
 17  20  515997 FEIERABEND Denise 1989 SUI  55.80  53.67  1:49.47  +4.93  29.24
 18  24  196726 BARTHET Anne-Sophie 1988 FRA  56.99  53.12  1:50.11  +5.57  33.03
 19  32  565320 FERK Marusa 1988 SLO  57.43  52.73  1:50.16  +5.62  33.33
 19  31  705423 VLHOVA Petra 1995 SVK  56.42  53.74  1:50.16  +5.62  33.33
 21  34  355040 NIGG Marina 1984 LIE  57.47  53.17  1:50.64  +6.10  36.18
 22  39  155728 DUBOVSKA Martina 1992 CZE  57.80  53.62  1:51.42  +6.88  40.80
 23  42  485637 ALOPINA Ksenia 1992 RUS  58.37  53.37  1:51.74  +7.20  42.70
 24  51  538855 FORD Julia 1990 USA  58.88  53.99  1:52.87  +8.33  49.40
 25  49  35156 BANCORA Salome 1993 ARG  59.26  56.26  1:55.52  +10.98  65.12
 26  59  715123 NOVAKOVIC Zana 1985 BIH  59.79  56.20  1:55.99  +11.45  67.91
 27  52  35089 SIMARI BIRKNER Macarena 1984 ARG  59.82  56.69  1:56.51  +11.97  70.99
 28  25  516284 GISIN Michelle 1993 SUI  1:00.73  56.39  1:57.12  +12.58  74.61
 29  50  665009 SHKANOVA Maria 1989 BLR  59.67  57.56  1:57.23  +12.69  75.26
 30  61  555018 GASUNA Lelde 1990 LAT  1:00.47  56.82  1:57.29  +12.75  75.62
 31  46  45331 SMALL Greta 1995 AUS  1:01.19  56.41  1:57.60  +13.06  77.46
 32  56  45216 CHRYSTAL Lavinia 1989 AUS  59.74  58.16  1:57.90  +13.36  79.23
 33  48  385092 KOMSIC Andrea 1996 CRO  1:00.82  57.78  1:58.60  +14.06  83.39
 34  60  255367 VILHJALMSDOTTIR Helga Maria 1995 ISL  1:02.69  1:00.53  2:03.22  +18.68  110.79
 35  65  245051 BERECZ Anna 1988 HUN  1:03.28  1:01.64  2:04.92  +20.38  120.87
 36  64  255352 ASGEIRSDOTTIR Erla 1994 ISL  1:03.55  1:01.53  2:05.08  +20.54  121.82
 37  68  555036 ABOLTINA Agnese 1996 LAT  1:05.44  1:01.18  2:06.62  +22.08  130.95
 38  74  235110 RALLI Sophia 1988 GRE  1:05.20  1:01.57  2:06.77  +22.23  131.84
 39  71  85022 HARRISSON Maya 1992 BRA  1:04.88  1:03.45  2:08.33  +23.79  141.09
 40  75  516442 DIAS Camille 1996 POR  1:05.24  1:03.26  2:08.50  +23.96  142.10
 41  78  525033 KOCAAGA Tugba 1985 TUR  1:06.22  1:02.74  2:08.96  +24.42  144.83
 42  76  959300 PELLEGRIN Elise 1991 MLT  1:07.10  1:02.73  2:09.83  +25.29  149.99
 43  72  605003 CAMPBELL Jasmine 1991 ISV  1:06.09  1:04.28  2:10.37  +25.83  153.19
 44  83  315203 BULATOVIC Ivana 1994 MNE  1:07.49  1:05.31  2:12.80  +28.26  167.60
 45  82  795001 TAZI Kenza 1996 MAR  1:10.19  1:06.96  2:17.15  +32.61  193.40
 46  69  395015 TOBI Triin 1995 EST  1:11.43  1:09.02  2:20.45  +35.91  212.97
 47  87  345061 CHAMOUN Jackie 1991 LIB  1:16.05  1:12.69  2:28.74  +44.20  262.14
 48  86  265028 ABBASI Forough 1993 IRA  1:26.71  1:08.98  2:35.69  +51.15  303.36
 49  54  325124 KANG Young-Seo 1997 KOR  1:18.84  1:17.61  2:36.45  +51.91  307.86
Disqualified 1st run
 80  298936 MEHILLI Suela 1994 ALB
 17  206279 GEIGER Christina 1990 GER
Did not start 1st run
 88  165037 TAYLOR Alexandra 1994 CYP
 79  865000 BASSANI ANTIVARI Gaia 1978 AZE
 41  565331 LAVTAR Katarina 1988 SLO
Did not finish 2nd run
 81  215007 GRIGOREVA Kseniya 1987 UZB
 73  275029 BELL Florence 1996 IRE
 58  95050 KIRKOVA Maria 1986 BUL
 57  45267 BAMFORD Emily 1992 AUS
 37  705349 GANTNEROVA Jana 1989 SVK
 33  297601 BRIGNONE Federica 1990 ITA
 30  197319 BAUD Adeline 1992 FRA
 26  537772 STIEGLER Resi 1985 USA
 18  296354 COSTAZZA Chiara 1984 ITA
 13  55759 KIRCHGASSER Michaela 1985 AUT
 1  56032 SCHILD Bernadette 1990 AUT
Did not finish 1st run
 85  960100 DIPOL Alessia Afi  1995 TOG
 84  955000 OETTL REYES Ornella 1991 PER
 77  785007 JANUSKEVICIUTE Ieva 1994 LTU
 70  125021 XIA Lina 1987 CHN
 67  685018 TSIKLAURI Nino 1993 GEO
 66  435245 CHRAPEK Karolina 1990 POL
 63  435334 GASIENICA-DANIEL Maryna 1994 POL
 62  115115 BARAHONA Noelle 1990 CHI
 55  35112 QUIROGA Julietta 1988 ARG
 53  325119 GIM So-hui 1996 KOR
 47  25096 GUTIERREZ Mireia 1988 AND
 45  705363 LUKACOVA Barbora 1990 SVK
 44  705394 KANTOROVA Barbara 1992 SVK
 43  385041 NOVOSELIC Sofija 1990 CRO
 40  155699 PAULATHOVA Katerina 1993 CZE
 38  538284 MCJAMES Megan 1987 USA
 36  435189 KLUS Aleksandra 1986 POL
 35  315187 IGNJATOVIC Nevena 1990 SRB
 27  106183 TERWIEL Elli 1989 CAN
 19  106961 MIELZYNSKI Erin 1990 CAN
 15  425771 LOESETH Nina 1989 NOR
 10  516280 HOLDENER Wendy 1993 SUI
 2  505760 PIETILAE-HOLMNER Maria 1986 SWE

Geoff Mintz

Associate Editor

Geoff Mintz is a former alpine ski racer who cut his teeth at Ragged Mountain and Waterville Valley, N.H. After graduating from Holderness and UVM, he relocated to Colorado, where he worked as an instructor at Beaver Creek prior to pursuing a career in journalism. He currently lives in the woods above Vail with his wife, Colleen.

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