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Mikaela Shiffrin of Edwards once again skied out early in the slalom portion of the alpine combined event at the 2022 Beijing Olympics on Thursday (late Wednesday in Colorado) and seems unlikely to medal at these Games.
Michelle Gisin of Switzerland on Thursday defended her gold in combined from the 2018 Winter Olympics, with her countrywomen, Wendy Holdener — the bronze medalist in 2018 — in silver-medal position. This may be the last time the combined event is contested in the Winter Olympics.
“I don’t know if anyone has failed that hard with so many opportunities, maybe in the history of the Olympics,” Shiffrin told NBC after the slalom. She was the defending silver medalist in combined.
Shiffrin skied a precise if low-risk downhill earlier in the day Thursday, placing the greatest slalom skier of all-time in fifth place (just .56 seconds back) headed into the slalom portion of the combined later in the day. She lasted a little longer than she did in last week’s stand-alone slalom, but still skied out in an event she has dominated for 10 years.
Shiffrin is improbably still searching for her first medal of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics after her next-to-last event. She’s still scheduled to compete in the alpine team event on Saturday.
The winner of the combined records the lowest time of one run of downhill and one run of slalom, but Shiffrin almost seemed to forecast her misfortune after her very solid downhill run, a discipline she does not typically excel in.
“It’s a good position,” Shiffrin told NBC after the downhill. “In theory it’s a good place to be. I’m not feeling totally confident with the slalom. I mean, I have a recurring image of myself skiing out on the fifth gate again, so I’m going to do my best and try to relax a little bit because that’s when my best slalom skiing comes out and that’s when I would have the most fun. I’m not placing any bets, but at least I have a chance and that’s great.”
The 2014 Olympic slalom gold medalist, Shiffrin has the record (47) for the most ever slalom victories on the World Cup circuit, but skied out early in her first slalom run last week at the Beijing Games and did not finish (DNF).
In the alpine combined at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, former Vail resident and 2010 Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn was leading after the downhill portion but missed a gate in slalom and DNF’d. Shiffrin was sixth after the downhill in that race.
That opened the door for Switzerland’s Gisin in 2018. Shiffrin claimed the silver medal, nearly a full second back after finishing third in slalom, and Gisin’s countrywoman, Wendy Holdener, took home the bronze.
Thursday in Beijing, Holdener was 11th after the downhill, .99 back, and Gisin was 12th, a full second back.
Defending overall World Cup champion Petra Vlhova of Slovakia was fifth in the 2018 combined but left the Beijing Games early to nurse a sore ankle after winning the slalom gold medal.
In a downhill training run for the combined event on Wednesday, Shiffrin had the fastest run of 1:33.56, followed by Holdener (1:34.49) and Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic (1:34.50) – who already has defended her 2018 gold in snowboarding’s parallel giant slalom — and then Gisin (1:34.56). Ledecka stood second Thursday after the combined downhill in Beijing, just .01 back of Austria’s Christine Scheyer.
Earlier this week, Shiffrin was 18th in her first-ever Olympic downhill – a race won by Corinne Suter of Switzerland.
So far in these Olympics, Shiffrin had skied out of the course early in the first run of her two strongest events – giant slalom and slalom – finished ninth in the super-G, and 18th in downhill.
Besides her silver in the 2018 combined, Shiffrin has won Olympic gold medals in slalom (2014 Sochi) and giant slalom (2018 Pyeongchang).
Shiffrin has said she will participate in the team event on Saturday, the final alpine skiing event of these Games.