Mikaela Shiffrin did the hardest thing anyone can do at the Olympics — she lived up to expectations. Even NBC’s.
Shiffrin took a lead of nearly half a second on her first run in the women’s slalom and held onto it in the second to win her first gold medal — but probably not her last. The American teenager finished fifth earlier in the week in the giant slalom, but this event is her best.
Shiffrin’s victory came with plenty of superlatives, including first woman to win an Alpine gold in Sochi and youngest woman to win an Olympic slalom medal.
Austria’s Marlies Schild and Kathrin Zettel won silver and bronze, respectively.
Shiffrin’s gold, while not guaranteed, was also not surprising. The United States ending its drought at the short track — that was surprising. The U.S. men’s 5,000-meter relay team — Eddy Alvarez, J.R. Celski, Chris Vreveling and Jordan Malone — won silver, .271 seconds behind Russia, which set an Olympic record. China won the bronze.
Viktor An, a South Korean short track medalist who became a Russian citizen several years ago, won the 500 meters, his third medal of these Games, and became the first man to win medals in all four individual short track events. An has adopted his new country with enthusiasm and the Russians have returned his regard, wildly celebrating his successes.
An also won the 1,000 and took a bronze in the 1,500. Wu Dajing of Chicago won silver and Charle Cournoyer of Canada won the bronze.
Celski, who fell in an earlier heat but made the semifinals when another skater was disqualified, was second in the B final, sixth overall. Malone was 28th and Alvarez was 31st.
South Korea grabbed gold and bronze in the women’s 1,000 short track event. Seung0Hi Park edged China’s Fan Kexin for the gold and Suk Hee Shim won the bronze. American Jessica Smith finished fourth.
Jorien ter Mors of the Netherlands was fifth. Ter Mors is a short track specialist but won gold in the long track 1,500 meters and was trying to become the first athlete to win a medal in both disciplines at the same Games.
On the long track, neither the U.S. men nor women advanced to the A or B finals (in other words, out of medal range). This will be the first Olympics since 1984 that the Americans have been shut out of the medals in speedskating.
As always, NBC didn’t list the men’s semifinal hockey games among its night-time offerings, but it seems likely you’ll see highlights from Sweden’s victory over Finland and Canada’s 1-0 win over the United States. The Finns and Americans will play for the bronze Saturday.
Women’s biathlon seldom makes the prime-time program, but NBC knows a great moment when it sees one. Ukraine’s relay team won a gold Friday morning despite the worry over conditions in their homeland, where rioting in Kiev has has left dozens dead and injured. Ukraine has not won a Winter Games gold medal since 1994 (Oksana Bayul) and although this medal does little too ease a country’s suffering, at least it brought some welcome good news to the world for a few moments. And that, after all, is what the Olympics were intended to do.