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Mikaela Shiffrin’s nightmare Olympics continued in Beijing on Wednesday (late Tuesday in Colorado) as she once again skied out early in her first run for a stunning DNF in her signature slalom event.
The 2014 slalom gold medalist from the Sochi Olympics followed up Monday’s disastrous giant slalom, in which she skied out on the fifth gate, by going down and out after just the fourth gate on Wednesday. Shiffrin was the 2018 GS Olympic champion in Pyeongchang.
“I’ve never been in this position before,” Shiffrin said, according to the Associated Press, “and I don’t know how to handle it. It feels like a really big letdown.”
Shiffrin on Wednesday tweeted her gratitude for the support of her boyfriend, Norwegian super-G bronze medalist Aleksander Aamodt Kilde: “My hope for every human is that they find another human who finds a way to love, understand, and heal them in the way @AleksanderKilde has done and continues to for me.”
Shiffrin still has three more individual races to try to set the American record of three alpine-skiing gold medals, but they are not her strongest events. Still left on the Olympic calendar in Beijing: the combined event, in which she earned the silver medal in 2018, and the speed events of downhill and super-G.
Next up is the women’s super-G on Friday. The downhill is on Tuesday of next week, and the combined is on Thursday.
While the 26-year-old from Edwards has the most wins ever in World Cup slalom (47), she’s only won a handful of speed events (four super-G’s, two downhills). The combined race — one run of downhill combined with one run of slalom — may be her best hope to salvage a medal at these Games.
In all, Shiffrin has won an astounding 73 times on the women’s World Cup tour — second only to former Vail resident and retired great Lindsey Vonn (82 wins).
Vonn, a four-time overall World Cup winner and 2010 Olympic downhill gold medalist, will go down in the record books as the greatest downhiller of her generation and perhaps ever, with 43 wins in that speed event. But Shiffrin has been so dominant in slalom (her 47 wins are the most ever by any World Cup racer in a single discipline) it was almost inconceivable she’d finish off the podium in Beijing. The three-time overall champ is the queen of slalom.
Now there’s a new queen as Petra Vlhova of Slovakia, who was in eighth at .72 back after the first run, came all the way back in the second run to claim the first Olympic medal ever for her nation in alpine skiing — an incredible gold medal in the slalom.
Vlhova, the defending overall World Cup champion, has already claimed the slalom globe for this season with five wins and is just 17 points behind Shiffrin, who has won two slaloms this season, in the overall hunt.
Vlhova’s coach, Mauro Mini, lamented Shiffrin’s failure to make it to a second run, telling the Associated Press, ““We’re sorry for the fans, because a Petra-Shiffrin duel would be fun to watch.”
Lena Duerr of Germany, who skied first in the first run, was leading heading into the second run but wound up off the podium in fourth. Katharina Liensberger of Austria claimed the silver, and Wendy Holdener of Switzerland won the bronze. American Paula Moltzan, who was sixth after the first run, finished eighth.