Mikaela Shiffrin gets confidence back in super-G
Two-time Olympic gold medalist rediscovers her rhythm
Special to the Tahoe Daily Tribune
The third time was a charm for Mikaela Shiffrin.
There was no medal in Friday’s super-G, the third event raced at these Winter Games for the Edwards local, but there was a finish. Most importantly, the Alpine superstar appeared to renew her confidence and rhythm on the slopes, perhaps a more meaningful victory in the long run.
After disqualifications in her first two Olympic events, Shiffrin found her groove in the super-G Friday in Beijing, skiing more with the trademark athletic, aggressive fluidity which has built an increasingly untouchable World Cup resume over the better part of the last decade.
The 26-year-old ripped down the top of the 1984-meter “Rock” ski course, fearlessly attacking the steep ridge line portion and joyfully flowing through the flat bottom section, where the race was surprisingly being determined.
She had an early lead after the first two checkpoints, but she opted for a wide route going into the Haituo Bowl, entering the Canyon with 0.38 seconds to make up. Her time of 1:14.30 was 0.79 off the lead, good for ninth.
Although known for her slalom prowess, Shiffrin has had success in the super-G in the past, winning gold in the 2019 World Championships. At the 2021 championships, she earned bronze in the event. She entered the competition never having won a speed event Olympic medal, but it was clear that Friday was more about getting her confidence back. Though visibly hungry for more, Shiffrin smiled and congratulated Lara Gut-Behrami in the leader’s chair at the bottom.
Notably absent from start list was Italy’s Sofia Goggia. The downhill specialist is still trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in Cortina in January. She decided to drop out of the super-G after two training runs on Thursday morning. The defending downhill gold medalist told Gazzetta dello Sport, “I can’t guarantee anything, not even my participation in the downhill. I cried all morning, the pressure is huge.”
The second skier on course, Ester Ledecka looked sharp in attempting to defend her Olympic title. Even though she has competed in only three of the super-G events this season, with a best finish of eighth, she posted a 1:13.94 to establish the early standard. Her hopes of repeating evaporated quickly, however, with Austrian Mirjam Puchner bettering the mark on the very next run. As more athletes took to the course, it was apparent that Puchner had discovered the secret to riding the canyon. A pattern of riders leading at the top of the course and then standing bewildered at the finish — having lost time to Puchner’s splits in the gliding canyon — quickly emerged.
Lara Gut-Behrami, the defending world champion and World Cup globe winner in the discipline, also gained time at the top of the hill. She cracked the canyon code, however, at least enough to steal the lead from Puchner. In the end, it was good enough for gold. Puchner settled for silver, and Gut-Behrami’s Swiss teammate Michelle Gisin took the bronze.
The Italians entered the Games having dominated the World Cup super-G circuit, winning six of the seven races. Most eyes were on Federica Brignone, winner of three of those and the current discipline’s points leader. After the second split, the Italian trailed by 0.49 seconds. Despite fighting for seconds, the four-time Olympian couldn’t do enough at the bottom of the course, falling off the podium to finish seventh.
After her disqualifications in the giant slalom and slalom, Shiffrin issued a statement through a U.S. Olympic spokesperson: “Mikaela (nor her mother/coach Eileen) will not be doing any media for the foreseeable future. Thank you for respecting her/their space right now.”
Ryan Sederquist is a reporter for the Vail Daily, a sister publciation of the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
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