PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — After several disappointing delays, Mikaela Shiffrin skied as risky a run as she could manage and hoped it would be enough for her second career Olympic gold.
"There were moments when I thought, 'I don't know if I'm good enough to do this' and then there were moments when I thought 'Who cares, you gotta try. You're here,'” said Shiffrin after coming from behind in the ladies giant slalom to win her first gold medal of her second Olympic Games with a time of 2:20.02. “It's an incredible feeling to know that my best effort is good enough."
Shiffrin said the repeated weather delays made her mental preparations difficult.
"It's been a mental strain the last couple of days, thinking we were going to race and then not racing, so to finally have the race actually happen today I was like, 'Well, I really hope that I can actually do it when the time comes that we finally race,'” Shiffrin said. “And I did, so now we got the ball rolling, I'm really excited for tomorrow."
Shiffrin was in second place after the first of two runs, and said was is a familiar position for her. Her goal was not to repeat past mistakes with an Olympic championship on the line.
“I’ve had so many giant slalom races where I’m in first or second in the first run, and then I ski slower because I’m trying to protect something,” she said. “The Olympics is not about protecting the lead. It’s about putting your best on the line. …And it’s something I’m going to be trying to do more and more.”
The 22-year-old had to wait in the finish area alongside silver medalist Ragnhild Mowinckel, Norway, (2:20.41) and bronze medalist Federica Brignone, Italy, (2:20.48) while first-run leader Manuela Moelgg, Italy, took the final run of the day.
Moelgg struggled with control on her second run, and the corrections slowed her down, causing her to fall to eighth place overall.
When she saw the results, Shiffrin fell to the ground, and then pulled her knees up to her head and tried to take in the fact that she’d just earned her second Olympic gold.
“There is so much emotion,” she said. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s crazy.”
She will not have long to revel in the success of Thursday’s gold medal.
“It’s the Olympics, but I still have a lot of events left to do,” said Shiffrin, who planned to compete in all five Alpine events, but may reconsider. “I still have the slalom race tomorrow, so I have to refocus my energy. But to come to the Olympics after some tough races on the World Cup circuit and to charge like that, I risked it on that second run, and it’s super cool.”
Park City’s Megan McJames finished 31st with a combined time of 1:12.39, which didn’t earn her any medals, but was satisfying nonetheless.
“I love to ski and I love to be in the mountains, and weather is part of that,” McJames said when asked about the impact of the repeated delays on her preparation. “So I did everything I could to be mentally and physically prepared when I got the opportunity to race. Being an independent skier, I’ve had a lot of challenges to get here, so I’m just really proud to race in the Olympics.”
The U.S. had two other athletes compete — Resi Stiegler, who finished 36th with a time of 2:31.74, and Patricia Mangan, who crashed on her first run.
Shiffrin has a somewhat complicated relationship with giant slalom, which made the gold medal moment even more satisfying.
“I love slalom,” she said referring to her 2014 Olympic gold, “but GS is something that I have a love-hat relationship with. Its makes it a bit sweeter to have that performance today.”