Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States captured gold in the women's Alpine skiing slalom on Friday after a pair of terrific runs on a tricky course in Sochi. It's the first Olympic medal for the American teenager, who was joined on the podium by Marlies Schild and Kathrin Zettel of Austria.
After a sluggish start to the Alpine events at this year's Games, the Americans have started to shine over the past couple of days. First, Ted Ligety was able to emerge victorious in the men's giant slalom, and now Shiffrin joined him as a 2014 gold medalist.
With that in mind, let's check out how the top finishers performed at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center and recap the final women's Alpine skiing event of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Women's Slalom Medal Winners and Top Results
|Gold||Mikaela Shiffrin||United States|
For a complete list of results for all 88 competitors, visit the Sochi Olympics' official site.
It didn't take long for the competitors to find out the Sochi slalom course meant business. There were 88 Alpine skiers scheduled for the event, and by the end of the first of two timed runs to determine the medalists, only 60 were still active in the discipline.
The other 28 athletes either didn't start, didn't finish or were disqualified. So it quickly became clear whichever skier was able to navigate the course best over both runs was certainly going to earn a spot atop the podium.
Shiffrin led by nearly a half-second when the dust settled after the first run. The 18-year-old rising star has established herself as one of the top slalom skiers in the world over the past two years and showed why by grabbing the lead.
Scott Stump of Today.com passed along comments she made during an interview with Matt Lauer leading up to the event, and the Colorado native was confident:
I think people are finally starting to realize that I'm not, like, this little girl,. They keep saying, 'Oh, she's just young, she'll stop skiing fast,' and I'm like, no way. I'm just getting started.
Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany and Tina Maze of Slovenia rounded out the top three after the first run. Bernadette Schild of Austria was the only other competitor within a second of the lead, but there were 12 skiers within two seconds and still in the mix given the tough course.
A pair of Austrians did exactly that.
Zettel and Marlies Schild, who were both outside the top five heading into the second run, both completed the course in under 52 seconds. Those times would have been good enough for the lead after the first round of competition.
Luckily for Shiffrin, none of the other contenders could match those runs. Hoefl-Riesch and Maze, which were both in medal positions heading into their second, both failed to crack the 52-second mark, a key distinction as the skiers started getting more aggressive with medals on the line.
So the American still needed a clean, efficient run to win gold, but she didn't need to be perfect and that ended up being the difference.
Bleacher Report's Dan Levy noted that Shiffrin nearly fell during her chase for gold but still managed to hang on to become the youngest slalom winner in history:
GOLD FOR USA - Mikaela Shiffrin, 18 years old, wins women’s slalom. Youngest slalom winner ever. Wow almost wiped too.— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) February 21, 2014
Paul Carr of ESPN adds that she is the first woman from the United States to medal in the event in more than 40 years:
Mikaela Shiffrin is the youngest to win slalom gold & 1st U.S. woman to medal in slalom since 1972. #Sochi2014— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) February 21, 2014
In the end, Shiffrin won by more than a half-second despite the strong runs from the Austrians. It was an emphatic statement from the young American.
Will Shiffrin continue her upward trend?
Looking ahead, Shiffrin sure appears well on her way to a decorated career. She won slalom gold at the World Championships last year and has backed it up with a convincing gold-medal performance in her first Olympics.
At 18, she should have plenty of years left at the top of her game. Fellow American Julia Mancuso was still going strong in Sochi at 29. So there's no reason to believe Shiffrin can't remain a top contender in the discipline for multiple Games to come.
Figuring out how to stay on top of the slalom pack is something she can worry about later. For now, it's time to celebrate her new gold medal.
Updated Medal Count