Mikaela Shiffrin starts off Olympics with gold in giant slalom

Jeff Passan
MLB columnist

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — For three days, Mikaela Shiffrin waited on the one thing that unquestionably could keep her from her goal of five Olympic gold medals at the PyeongChang Games: the weather. The winds swirled around Yongpyong Alpine Centre enough to cancel a pair of events and leave in question her quest.

After the giant slalom race Thursday afternoon, it was well alive (at least until she pulled out of the Super-G). Shiffrin shattered the field in her second run, winning with an inspired blitz through tricky terrain that gave her the second gold of her Olympic career.

“There’s nothing to hold back for in the second run,” Shiffrin said after her first, which ended in 1:10.82, two-tenths of a second behind Italy’s Manuela Moelgg. She restrained nothing on the second run, which she finished in a total of 2:20.2, .39 ahead of silver medalist Ragnhild Mowinckel before Federica Brignone, who took bronze.

“[After finishing fifth at Sochi], I set a goal to become the best GS skier in the world,” Shiffrin said after winning gold. “To be able to put down a run that was taking risk and fighting for it, I was really happy about that.”

The 22-year-old Shiffrin’s five-gold objective was particularly audacious considering the havoc the wind wrought on the schedule. But after winning gold Thursday, she scrapped the Super-G. She’ll return to Yongpyong on Friday for the slalom – in which she won gold at the Sochi Games and is the distinct favorite here because of her technical skill – but will skip Saturday’s Super-G.

Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, attacks the gate during the first run of the Women’s Giant Slalom at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. (AP)

Then comes three days of training for the downhill Wednesday, followed by the combined – which marries downhill and slalom – on Feb. 23. It’s a daunting schedule for any racer, even at four races.

“Last night,” Shiffin said, “I was like, ‘Are we ever gonna race?’ ”

They finally did Thursday. And it was an auspicious start to an Olympics she plans to make memorable.

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