PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — “I’m a pretty good competitor,” Lindsey Vonn said shortly after completing her downhill run for Thursday’s combined event, and roughly three hours before she pushed out of the slalom starting gate. “I’m going to give it hell, and maybe I can pull out a miracle.”
She didn’t get that miracle. After finishing first in the downhill, Vonn went off course in the slalom, and her likely last Olympic race ends in disappointment.
The slalom had victimized Vonn’s teammate Mikaela Shiffrin last week; Shiffrin finished just off the podium in what’s long been her best event. Shiffrin entered the slalom run with a time of 1:41.35 in the downhill, good enough for sixth place but nearly two full seconds behind Vonn.
“It almost takes the pressure off,” Shiffrin said of her downhill time. “I can ski free and see what happens.” What happened was, Shiffrin finished in second to take the silver.
Michelle Gisin of Switzerland won gold.
Watch Shiffrin’s run here:
Vonn had given herself the best chance possible. She recorded a time of 1:39.37 in the downhill, good enough for first place by three-quarters of a second over the rest of the field. But the slalom is a far more demanding event, requiring technical precision in addition to fearless speed.
This race marks a transitional time in skiing history. Vonn, barring what she’s called a medical miracle, won’t be back for any future Olympics. Shiffrin now becomes the face of skiing, and she can count on being in position to come back for two or three more of these. It’s going to be fascinating to watch how much more hardware the United States can pile up in the coming years.
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• A bittersweet ending for Lindsey Vonn