Thursday, February 15, 2018

Mikaela Shiffrin Achieves PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Dream Under A Fire Rainbow

On a sunny Thursday afternoon at Yongpyong Alpine Center, one of Mikaela Shiffrin's 2018 Olympic dreams came true beneath a fire and ice rainbow.

Though spectators at ground level enjoyed noticeably mild winter temperatures, the frosty air above the finish line occasionally created circumhorizontal arcs under which Shiffrin found her five-ringed pot of gold. 

Crossing the second run finish line in 1:09.20, Shiffrin secured first place (with her first run time of 1:10.82 for total 2:20.02) as the penultimate skier of her round. 

Norway's Ragnhild Mowinckel earned silver just .39 points behind, with a surprise bronze for Italy's Federica Brignone .46 slower than the top time.

I was standing the the mixed zone with a gaggle of U.S. reporters, assorted Team USA officials or hangers-on, and a cadre of international media all clamoring for Q&A time with Shiffrin. 

She shared some great answers in the snow outside and later in a jam-packed press conference in the venue media center. 

"Today I was trying really hard but I was feeling the hill, I was feeling the moutain and I was feeling my skis, and I was really letting it go as much as I could in that second run," said Shiffrin. "To win a gold medal skiing like that is really special."

Shiffrin added that calculated risks factored heavily in her victory. 

"The Olympics is not about protecting the lead, it's about putting your best on the line and you can see what happens," said Shiffrin. "It was incredible to take so much risk in that second run but it's something I'm trying to do more and more with the World Cup racing."

Shiffrin's gold mining continues with two other downhill events that are now set for consecutive days, thanks in part to bad weather earlier this week. I asked her how she plans to spend time now through the next race.

"[Tonight] I'm going to try to get some rest and some food, and then there's the medal ceremony, so it's going to be a full day but I know my mentality today was really good and it's the same mentality I'll bring to tomorrow."

Shiffrin will collect her gold medal to be presented by IOC member HSH Princess Nora of Liechtenstein.

During the hour long wait between Shiffrin's victory and her eventual visit to media row, I had time to chat briefly with several other ladies' giant slalom competitors, congratulating each of them on their achievement as Olympians. 

One young competitor stood out: Mialitiana Clerc of Madagascar. 

The 16 year old skier, who ranked 48th out of 58 finishers, told me she got started skiing in France after her adoption parents introduced her to the sport near Chamonix. 

Whatever works when your birth nation is a tropical African island!

According to Clerc's online bio in the PyeongChang media database, she lists Shiffrin as her idol and inspiration to compete -- and win medals for Africa -- at Beijing 2022. 

May she find her Olympic pot of gold in China in just four years. 

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver


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