Nick Caito/ESPN Images(PYEONGCHANG, South Korea) — In her last race in Pyeongchang, Mikaela Shiffrin rallied from sixth place after the downhill in the women’s combined to take the silver medal after a strong slalom run. Meanwhile, Lindsey Vonn, who led after the downhill, missed a gate just seconds in — ending her chance for a final medal in what is most likely her last Olympic Games.
Michelle Gisin of Switzerland was able to put together two solid times to win the gold.
The combined event is a favorite race of Shiffrin’s. She knew what she had to do standing at the top of the slalom course. The 22-year-old from Colorado is considered the best slalom skier in the world this year, but it was a tough ask to make up two seconds difference. No American has ever taken the gold in the event.
“I made a bit too big a mistake in the downhill to come back from that in the slalom, but I can be really proud of a lot of the turns I made today,” Shiffrin told reporters after her race. “It’s really, really incredible to walk away from here with a medal.”
Vonn, stronger in downhill events than slalom, was hoping to end her Olympic career with one gold in Pyeongchang and she felt confident after the first leg of the competition.
“I just attacked like I always do and I’m proud of this last downhill run in the Olympics, going out on top,” Vonn said. “Maybe it wasn’t like the downhill individual race, but it sure feels good.”
Vonn had to settle for a bronze in the individual downhill on Wednesday.
After that race she tweeted, “Turns out my skis got burnt out in the race yesterday.”
Her skis were fast Thursday on the downhill. She finished 0.74 seconds ahead of Ragnhild Mowinckel, the Norwegian skier who had edged ahead of Vonn for the silver medal in the individual downhill event.
Shiffrin decided to skip the individual downhill to concentrate on the combined after weather conditions had forced race organizers to tighten the calendar. Shiffrin had already won the gold medal in the women’s giant slalom, but finished fourth in the regular slalom.
“It was definitely helpful just to have a day where I wasn’t mentally stressing about running this track or doing everything right,” Shiffrin said about skipping the downhill.
Both Vonn and Shiffrin have also decided to skip the last race, the team event.
“I came into these Olympics knowing I could be a medal threat in multiple disciplines. I didn’t even know how many I would ski,” Shiffrin told reporters after the combined. “After the gold in the giant slalom, I was really hopeful and positive. Then I had a tougher day in the slalom, but it still feels good though.”
If Vonn had won a medal in the combined she would have tied the record for the most-decorated American female alpine skier at the Olympics, currently held by Julia Mancuso with four.
Vonn was the first U.S. female alpine skier to win in all five World Cup disciplines, reach 50 World Cup victories and the first U.S. skier, male or female, to win four overall World Cup titles. She had hoped to surpass Swedish skier Ingamar Stenmark’s record of 86 World Cup victories to add to her impressive list of accomplishments. She currently stands at 81 victories.
Her immediate future is undecided, but she says Beijing 2022 may just be too far. She will be 37 years old at the next Winter Olympics.
Vonn had dedicated these Olympics races to her grandfather, Don Kildow, who passed away in November.
“I want so badly to do well for him,” a tearful Vonn said just before the Olympics began. “I miss him so much. He’s been such a big part of my life, and I really hoped that he would be alive to see me. But I know he’s watching, and I know that he’s going to help me, and I’m going to win for him.”
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