Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin consigned American Mikaela Shiffrin to silver after storming to victory in the Olympic women’s alpine combined on Thursday.
Gisin, lying third fastest after the opening downhill, displayed nerves of steel in the slalom to clock an aggregate time of 2min 20.90sec.
“It’s amazing to be on the podium with two such amazing skiers,” she said. “I knew I’d have to deliver the slalom of my life to have a chance to get that gold medal.”
Shiffrin, who won the giant slalom gold in Pyeongchang but could only finish fourth in her favoured slalom, was almost a second back, while another Swiss racer, Wendy Holdener, claimed bronze.
Lindsey Vonn, leader in the downhill, failed to finish the slalom.
“It’s a nice way to end the Olympics,” Shiffrin said of her second medal. “I started off with a bang and ending with a medal on the podium is really cool.
“I came into these Olympics knowing I could be a medal threat in multiple disciplines,” added the American.
“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.”
The race had been billed as a rare showdown between the past and future of women’s alpine skiing, but Gisin proved to be the fly in the ointment in the clash between Vonn and Shiffrin.
The combined, the last individual ski race of the 2018 Winter Games, was their only head-to-head matchup in South Korea.
Shiffrin skipped the downhill after the combined was brought forward a day and Vonn, battling back from a raft of injuries, missed the technical events to focus on the super-G and downhill.
The pair rarely compete against each other on the World Cup circuit because of their preferred specialities. But there was still a feeling that the baton has been passed.
The 33-year-old Vonn, who has the most World Cup victories by a female skier (81), is closing in on Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 World Cup wins and has pledged to ski on until she breaks that mark.
“I knew I had to risk everything,” said Vonn, who won downhill bronze in midweek. “I used to win slaloms but now my body doesn’t cooperate with me as much as I would like.”
Shiffrin, 22, has already racked up 41 World Cup victories and could realistically target not only that record but also many more Olympic and world championship medals.
Shiffrin took to the start gate with a 0.76sec advantage over Holdener, who won silver in the Pyeongchang slalom and world combined silver last year, and the American could be seen chewing her lips in stress as she readied herself.
Despite losing some time midway through the course, Shiffrin powered through to the bottom to take first place, 0.47sec ahead of Holdener.
“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,” she said.
The Swiss were determined to spoil Shiffrin’s party.
First up for the Swiss, however, was defending world combined champion Wendy Holdener, 10th fastest after the downhill, who produced an electric slalom run of 40.21sec to lead with 2:22.34.
But then came Holdener’s team-mate Gisin, who ripped down a near-faultless run to leapfrog Shiffrin by almost a second.
“That was about as good a run as I could have done,” said the 24-year-old, following with aplomb her elder sister Dominique’s tracks – she won joint downhill gold with Tina Maze in Sochi.
“My sister made me believe that you can grab the stars and that’s what I did today.”
Swedish veteran Andre Myhrer took a shock slalom men’s gold at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Thursday as the two favourites both spectacularly bombed out.
Ramon Zenhaeusern of Switzerland won silver, 0.34sec behind, and Michael Matt of Austria the bronze after his compatriot Marcel Hirscher and then Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway imploded.
Myhrer, at 35 years and 42 days, becomes the oldest Olympic slalom winner, breaking the record set by Austria’s Mario Matt in 2014.
He also follows Ingemar Stenmark, who won the slalom and giant slalom in 1980, as only the second Swedish man to claim an Olympic alpine skiing gold.
“It means everything. I’ve been training my whole life for a moment like this,” said the unheralded Swede, who also took slalom bronze in 2010.
“I took a medal in Vancouver, a bronze, but I’ve been always dreaming about the gold medal and now it’s a reality and I’m totally blown away.”
Myhrer said that he feared his chance had gone as he came to the end of his run.
“I haven’t seen the split times but that was my feeling coming into the last part and I just tried to force everything I had,” he said, after clocking a winning combined time of 1:38.99.
“And luckily it was enough to go home with the gold.”
‘I SKIED REALLY BADLY’
Myhrer could hardly believe his luck as favourites Hirscher and Kristoffersen bombed out.
He went into the second and final run in second place behind Kristoffersen, who went fastest in the morning and looked to have one hand on the title.
But nerves appeared to get the better of Kristoffersen, who was going last, and his dreams of a first Olympic gold were obliterated when he failed to finish his second run.
Just as surprisingly, Hirscher crashed out in the morning run, ruining his hopes of a golden hat-trick in South Korea.
Hirscher, 28, failed to find his rhythm on a course set by his own coach, Michael Pircher, and eventually missed a gate to fail to even make the second run.
Hirscher – who had already won the men’s alpine combined and giant slalom at these Games, his first individual Olympic titles – revealed he had never been comfortable in the lead-up to the slalom, even in training.
“The feeling was really bad the whole week on slalom skis and this is the final result,” he said.
“I had absolutely no confidence on this kind of snow. I skied really badly. This is what also can happen and is part of the game, part of the sport.
“You have success and sometimes you have not the best days.”
Hirscher had been aiming to become only the fourth skier in history to win a third gold medal at a single Olympics, joining Austria’s Toni Sailer (1956), Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy and Croatia’s Janica Kostelic (2002).
Norway’s Marit Bjoergen became the most successful athlete in Winter Olympic history on Wednesday as she took bronze behind a stunning win for USA in cross-country skiing’s women’s team sprint free.
Bjoergen’s bronze with Maiken Caspersen Falla put her on 14 Olympic medals, outstripping fellow Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who has 13 in biathlon.
“It’s hard to understand, actually,” Bjoergen said.
“I think I’ll need to have time to myself and look behind me and look how I’ve been able to do this. It’s still hard to understand it when I’m standing here.”
Bjoergen, 37, is also the second most successful woman at either the Summer or Winter Games, trailing only Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina with 18 medals.
Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins celebrated ecstatically as they edged Sweden by 0.19sec to win the first Olympic cross-country title for the United States.
Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo won the men’s title by 1.71sec ahead of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, with France finishing third.
.@maritbjoergen becomes the most decorated Winter Olympian ever as she & @FalleriFallera #NOR win #CrossCountrySkiing team sprint free #bronze 👏@idrett More #PyeongChang2018 news here: https://t.co/jZUV6YSTnB pic.twitter.com/pLp2gyeIqZ
— Olympic Channel (@olympicchannel) February 21, 2018