Upset! Mikaela Shiffrin Falls Short of a Medal in the Alpine Slalom, Her Specialty
In a stunning upset, Mikaela Shiffrin couldn’t capture the same magic of yesterday’s gold medal run and left empty-handed in the highly anticipated women’s alpine skiing slalom that was supposed to be a lock for the skiing superstar.
Shiffrin, 22, failed to take home her second medal of the Winter Games on Friday morning (Thursday night in the states). The alpine slalom is her specialty, and Shiffrin came in as the event’s favorite less than a day after winning her first gold medal in her Pyeongchang debut at the Giant slalom.
While the alpine slalom was originally scheduled earlier this week, Olympic officials postponed the event due to heavy winds. Coming into the slalom, Shiffrin’s main threats were Petra Vlhova of Slovakia, who beat Shiffrin in November by 0.1 in the season-opening slalom; Frida Hansdotter of Sweden; and Wendy Holdener of Switzerland.
Whether the postponement affected her at all, Shiffrin put on a discouraging first run, where she finished with a 49.37, a half second back behind first-place Holdener’s 48.89.
Though she seemed nervous after the initial showing, not all seemed lost, as just last month in Flachau, Shiffrin trailed by .37 seconds in the first run but won the event by .94 seconds.
In an interview with NBC Sports just after her first showing, Shiffrin admitted she vomited before coming to the gates. “It was kind of sudden,” she said. “It almost felt like a virus kind of puking less about nerves.”
After the interview, Shiffrin likely went to take a nap, as she famously does during every race. By the start of the second portion, Shiffrin was in fourth position with a huge deficit to make up.
On her second run, Shiffrin moved into second with a run time of 49.66 and a total time of 1:39.03. While she wouldn’t take home gold, she still had a chance to medal—though it wasn’t a sure thing with three skiers left behind her. By the end, Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter took first place, and Wendy Holdener of Switzerland and Katharina Gallhuber of Austria took second and third, leaving Shiffrin in fourth.
With her loss, Team USA’s total medal count stays at eight—which includes five gold, one silver and two bronze—including a sweep of all of the gold medals in the snowboarding events to date. America’s eight medals are currently good for fifth in the medal count, with Norway leading the way with a whopping 17.
The alpine slalom performance was Shiffrin’s second showing in a total of five runs in Pyeongchang, with the downhill, super combined and team event up next (she decided to skip tomorrow’s Super G for rest). She was emotional after her scoring her first gold in the Giant slalom on Thursday, breaking out into tears when she found out she was able to come ahead of Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel.
Yesterday’s win was her first Olympic medal since winning gold in Sochi, Russia, four years ago. In those games, she became the youngest slalom gold medalist ever at just 18 years old.
Shiffrin is also the first woman to win three consecutive world slalom titles in 78 years, and is often compared with American alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, the most decorated female ski racer of all time.
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But she hasn’t let her success get to her head.
“I’m well-known in my sport and people are starting to take notice outside of my sport as well, but the good thing of where I’m at right now is that I’m kind of — like I don’t really want it to change,” Shiffrin told PEOPLE in September. “I do in that, if I want to go to the Olympics this year, I want to perform well and if I do then it will change, so I want to do that. But I don’t want things to change in that I can go to the grocery store and shop and do my things.”
Unlike many young athletes competing with her as part of Team USA, Shiffrin is generally quiet on social media and told PEOPLE before leaving for Pyeongchang that she wants to remain as down-to-earth as possible.
“I’m still going into these Games feeling star-struck by all of my competitors,” she said, “and I’m the same type of person to just keep my head down and just go do my race, do my thing and then see what happens.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics are airing live on NBC. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.