KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin stands fifth after the first of two runs of the women’s giant slalom, and she’ll enter Tuesday afternoon’s second run in contention for a medal in her first Olympic event.
Shiffrin, 18, endured horrendous conditions – rain fell over most of the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center for much of the race – to trail leader Tina Maze of Slovenia by 0.91 of a second. Maze’s time of 1 minute, 17.88 seconds was by far the best in the field, more than half a second faster than second-place Jessica Lindell Vikarby of Sweden.
“I was nervous at the start, but when I was in the gate I wasn’t,” Shiffrin said. “I just wanted to ski.”
American Julia Mancuso, a four-time Olympic medalist, got out of rhythm as she came over the final pitch and eventually skied off the course. She won’t compete in the second run, and her Olympics are therefore over.
But Mancuso, 29, said she plans on making another run for what would be her fifth Olympics in 2018. She said she was inspired not only her bronze medal in the super combined – which made her the first U.S. Alpine skier to earn medals in three straight Games – but by the performance of 36-year-old teammate Bode Miller, who won bronze in the super-G here and was fast enough in training that he became a favorite in the downhill.
“At the beginning of the season I felt like there was no way I would come back,” Mancuso said. “But after coming here and kind of having that magical day it makes me want to keep going.”
Shiffrin’s Olympics are just beginning. Her best event is the slalom, which will be contested Friday night, but she stands sixth in the current World Cup giant slalom standings and has twice finished in the top three. She said visibility, even in a fairly steady rain, wasn’t a problem, but she made an error that cost her time.
“I kind of pushed the line a little bit too much in the flats and got a little bit of pressure below the gate,” Shiffrin said. “It’s normally not that fast, especially in these conditions. Just loosen up my legs and go for it.”
Her solution for the afternoon run, which will take place at 4 a.m. EST? “Ski faster,” she said.
Italy’s Nadia Franchini and Switzerland’s Anna Fenninger are also ahead of Shiffrin.