Mikaela Shiffrin skis out of slalom in Olympic Alpine combined event | SummitDaily.com

Mikaela Shiffrin skis out of slalom in Olympic Alpine combined event

Ryan Sederquist
Vail Daily
Mikaela Shiffrin skis the slalom course during her championship-clinching run at the FIS Alpine World Championships at Beaver Creek in 2015. On Wednesday at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Shiffrin skied out of the course in the slalom during the combined event.
Joel Reichenberger/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

EAGLE — The door was wide open for Mikaela Shiffrin, but she couldn’t walk through.

In the Olympic Alpine combined event, which requires athletes to showcase their range of abilities as speed and technical skiers, Shiffrin was perfectly positioned to finally earn a medal at the 2022 Olympics. After a humbling start to the Beijing Games that included disqualifications in her two strongest events — the slalom and giant slalom — the World Cup overall leader sat in fifth after the downhill portion of the two-event competition, which combines a downhill and a slalom run to form a total time. With only speed skiers in front of her, Shiffrin had a golden opportunity for a medal, but skied out of the slalom course at the tenth gate.

Swiss skiers Michelle Gisin and Wendy Holdener won gold and silver, respectively, with the Italian Federica Brignone earning the bronze.

A generally mistake-free downhill put Shiffrin just 0.56 seconds behind the Austrian leader Christine Scheyer after the first event, giving the 47-time World Cup slalom winner good reason to be licking her chops. Yet, that wasn’t exactly the case based on quotes coming between the two runs.

“I have to overcome the image that I am going to ski out on the fifth gate,” Shiffrin told The New York Times after the downhill. “I am just trying to stay calm because I think I was doing pretty well with that this morning. Stay calm and have a good run at slalom.”

According to NBC reports, Shiffrin road the downhill course on skis belonging to Sofia Goggia, the Italian downhill gold (2018) and silver medalist (2022). Goggia, who knows a little something about overcoming calamity and rising to the occasion on the piste — she suffered a vicious fall in late January and narrowly recovered in time for her inspiring silver medal downhill performance a few days ago — left a note for the American on the skis: “Fly Mika, you can.”

Shiffrin rode an aggressive line at the top of the course, clipping a few gates but remaining low and aerodynamic. She stayed smooth throughout the icy course, even gaining a few tenths back at the bottom of the 2,704-meter track. Her teammate Keely Cashman, who took to the course immediately prior to Shiffrin, sat in seventh place.

Gisin had her sights set on defending her Olympic title from PyeongChang. Only Croatia’s Janica Kostelic (2002, 2006) and Germany’s Maria Hofl-Riesch (2010, 2014) had ever defended the Olympic gold in the event before Gisin replicated the accomplishment.

After the downhill, Gisin sat in 12th place. The bronze medalist from four years ago, Holdener — perhaps Shiffrin’s biggest competition on paper going into the slalom — lurked in 11th. Holdener also won the discipline’s globe in 2016 and 2018. The leader, Scheyer, entered the competition without a single Olympic or World Championship medal and has only one World Cup win, a downhill victory from 2017.

The Austrian went first down the icy slalom hill, setting the standard at 56.83. Ester Ledecka, sitting in second, found 0.94 seconds on Scheyer, posting the new best at 55.89. Ledecka, who famously won Alpine ski super-G and parallel giant slalom snowboard golds in 2018, made a mistake on the second gate in the downhill but still posted the second-fastest time of the day and began the slalom just 0.01 seconds behind Scheyer. In the end, she wound up in the undesirable fourth position.

Austria’s Ramona Siebenhofer, primarily a downhill skier, didn’t have much to give in the slalom and went into third place after her run. France’s Romane Miradoli, starting fourth, straddled a gate to end her day, bringing up the American with a golden opportunity.

Unfortunately, Shiffrin’s Beijing woes continued. Despite finding her rhythm through the first nine gates, she dropped low late on the 10th, throwing herself out of position and skidding to a stop on the icy, steep slope. Five of the first 10 skiers posted a DNF, including fellow Americans Cashman and Isabella Wright. Tricia Mangan was the only one of the red, white and blue to get to the bottom of the hill, finishing in 11th.

Shiffrin next skis in the mixed team parallel Saturday.

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