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Mikaela Shiffrin is fifth in her Olympic debut


Mikaela Shiffrin competes during the women’s giant slalom Tuesday. (Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin finished fifth in her Olympic debut, Tuesday’s women’s giant slalom, a race won by Slovenian champion Tina Maze and contested in horrendous conditions.

Shiffrin, whose strongest event is the slalom, was a half-second behind Maze’s winning time of 2 minutes, 36.87 seconds over two runs. Maze won her second gold of these Olympics, finishing just 0.07 of a second ahead of Austria’s Anna Fenninger, with Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg — the defending gold medalist in the discipline — taking bronze.

“It was a pretty spectacular day, actually,” Shiffrin said. “It’s not sunny, but on the other hand, who gets to race their first Olympics in rain this bad when there’s still snow on the ground?”

The second run was delayed 15 minutes by fog and was held in varying conditions. Near the top of the course, there was often heavy snow, and a steady rain fell for long periods at the bottom.

Shiffrin stood fifth after the first run, but she was within 0.91 seconds of Maze’s lead, and said her thoughts were clear.

“I was thinking gold medal,” she said.

Yet when she finished the second run, she stood second behind Rebensburg, who had the fastest run in the afternoon – 1:17.90. Shiffrin’s second run was the sixth-fastest. She has not won a World Cup giant slalom race – by comparison, she is the world champion in slalom – but is sixth in the season-long standings, with two top-three finishes.

So she was philosophical about not earning a medal in her first Olympic race.

“I wanted a gold, but … I think this was meant to happen,” she said. “It’s something I’m going to learn from. Next Olympics I go to, I’m sure as heck not getting fifth.”

Maze, last year’s overall World Cup champ, now has a second gold from these Games to go with the one she won (along with Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin) in the downhill. Fenninger adds her silver to the gold she took in super-G.

Shiffrin’s next race is the slalom Friday night, the final women’s Alpine race of the Olympics.

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Barry Svrluga is the national baseball writer for The Washington Post.



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Sally Jenkins · February 18, 2014