American teen Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest ever to win an Olympic gold medal in the women’s slalom at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The new Olympic champion recovered from a near disaster during the second leg of the slalom on Friday, after it appeared she almost lost her balance while navigating the gates. Her left ski lifted a little too far in the air and her chances to medal briefly were in doubt.
But all ended well for the determined 18-year-old American who said on Friday night:
“Yeah, that was pretty terrifying for me. There I was, I’m like, ‘Grrreat. I’m just going to go win my first medal.’ And then, in the middle of the run, I’m like, ‘Guess not.’ “So like, ‘No. Don’t do that. Do not give up. You see this through.’ My whole goal was to just keep my skis moving.”
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Known for her composure on and off the track, Mikaela Shiffrin managed to finish her leg strong and live up to the incredible expectations that were put upon her.
The American ran ahead of two Austrians, Marlies Schild and Kathin Zettel, by more than half a second during an unusual night run for the ladies slalom competition in the Russian mountains, becoming the youngest slalom Olympic champion in history.
“It’s going to be something that I chalk up as one of my favorite experiences for the rest of my life,” the Colorado native said. “But my life’s not over yet.”
At 18, the US skier beat the best racers in the world at the Rosa Khutor skiing complex on Friday and finished with the fastest time in the first run, sixth-fastest in the second, for a combined time of 1 minute, 44.54 seconds.
Marlies Schild — the oldest Olympic slalom medalist ever — ended up 0.53 seconds behind Shiffrin, and Kathrin Zettel was 0.81 seconds back.
The age difference and the records set in the slalom at Sochi didn’t go unnoticed to Mikaela Shiffrin’s father, Jeff:
“You know what’s surreal? That Marlies and Mikaela are on a podium together. Marlies, she’s battled, she’s had injuries, but she’s been the queen of slalom. Mikaela has said, ‘I’ve channeled Marlies.'”
Mikaela Shiffrin’s gold medal gives the United States a total of five Olympic medals, second only to Austria’s seven, the second highest total for the Americans. They won eight in Vancouver with Lindsey Vonn on the team.