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Locals Shiffrin, Radamus leave Beijing with plenty of hope for present, future of U.S. ski racing

February 20, 2022, 11:45 am
Mikaela Shiffrin reacts following her run during the Mixed Team Parallel quarterfinal at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games in Yanqing, China.

Two Edwards-based U.S. Ski Team racers, Mikaela Shiffrin and River Radamus, leave the 2022 Beijing Olympics with no medals in their luggage. But Sunday’s delayed and wind-plagued alpine team event served as a form of redemption and offered some hope for the future of the American squad.

River Radamus

Shiffrin and Radamus were part of a U.S. mixed team that finished fourth, just outside of the medals, adding to Radamus’s fourth-place finish in the individual giant slalom. At 24, the former Ski and Snowboard Club racer now appears poised for a breakout on the World Cup circuit and should go into the 2026 Cortina Winter Olympics as one of the leaders of the American men’s team.

For Shiffrin, the team event allowed her to finish (if not always win) multiple runs of slalom after an apparent case of the yips kept her from finishing the individual slalom, which she won an Olympic gold in at the 2014 Games, and the alpine combined slalom, which she won an Olympic silver medal in at the 2018 Games. She also has a gold medal from 2018 Games in the giant slalom, although she failed to finish the GS in Beijing.

In all, Shiffrin’s best result was the team event fourth and a ninth-place finish in the individual super-G at the Beijing Olympics — far from her hopes and expectations heading into these Olympics. Still, she competed in all six events and leaves these Games a three-time Olympic medalist at age 26, a three-time overall World Cup champion and has the second-most wins ever (73) on the women’s World Cup circuit.

Shiffrin leads the current overall World Cup chase by a scant 17 points over Beijing slalom gold medalist Petra Vlhova, who left the Games early to rest a sore ankle, and the two will duke it out at four World Cup stops over the next month. A fourth overall title for Shiffrin would tie former Vail resident Lindsey Vonn for the most in American ski-racing history.

It will then, no doubt, be an off season of reflection for Shiffrin — now more than two years removed from the accidental death of her father, Jeff, at their Edwards home. If she were to call it a career now, Shiffrin would retire as the greatest tech event (slalom and GS) ski racer in the history of the sport. Her 14 GS and 47 slalom wins, the most ever by a ski racer in any discipline, cements that legacy.

If she keeps at it for the next four years, and stays healthy, Shiffrin at age 30 would likely surpass Vonn’s all-time women’s record of 82 World Cup wins, and she would head into Cortina — a much friendlier Olympic venue — with all her same goals on the table. One more Olympic medal would tie the retired Julia Mancuso for the most medals by an American woman (four). One more gold would set an American record at three. And three more medals would tie Bode Miller’s U.S. record of six medals.

True, Ryan Cochran-Siegle’s super-G silver was the only medal of these Games for the U.S. alpine team — the poorest showing since Picabo Street’s solo super-G gold at the 1998 Nagano Olympics — and Shiffrin by her own admission thought she would bolster that medal total in Beijing.

But none of those things are necessary for Shiffrin to already be able to leave the sport as the best tech skier in the history of the sport — just as Vonn retired as the greatest speed-event racer of all time (43 downhill, 28 super-G wins). And the fact that both are such strong, outspoken leaders and Americans, with such deep ties to Vail and the broader Eagle River Valley, is remarkable and should be celebrated locally and nationally, now and for years to come.

Here’s the Team USA press release on Sunday’s team event:

Mikaela Shiffrin became just the second woman ever to compete in six alpine skiing events in a single Olympics, finishing just off the podium in the mixed team event Sunday to conclude skiing at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

Shiffrin, Tommy Ford, Paula Moltzan and River Radamus finished even with Norway in the small final at 2-2 but lost on tiebreaker to finish in fourth place. The Olympic team event pits teams of two men and two women against each other in four slalom races; Moltzan and Radamus won their races while Ford and Shiffrin lost theirs. Austria beat Germany in the big final, also by tiebreaker.

“This is the only event where we compete as a whole, otherwise we are very much individual athletes,” said Moltzan. “To have teammates like these guys competing with me is a true honor. You are going to watch the sport get pushed and the limits get pushed and that’s what happened out there today.”

Poor weather bumped the team event from Saturday to Sunday, meaning skiers like Shiffrin had to delay their departures from Beijing. Even with the remainder of the world cup season still to come, Shiffrin opted to stay and join Petra Vlhova as the only women to ski in six events at the Games. Shiffrin was glad she stayed to compete with her teammates. 

“I am not disappointed,” Shiffrin said. “I have had a lot of disappointing moments at these Games, today is not one of them. Today is my favorite memory. This was the best possible way that I could imagine ending the Games, skiing with such strong teammates.”

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