By Rory Carroll
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Surprise successes, shocking failures and a dizzying number of scheduling changes made for a turbulent three weeks in Pyeongchang for Mikaela Shiffrin, but the American said she is walking away happy after taking silver in Thursday’s combined.
Shiffrin played it safe in her downhill run but answered with a brilliant performance in her preferred slalom to add a silver to her unexpected gold in giant slalom in her final race of the Games.
With her gold in slalom from Sochi, the world’s best all-around skier now has Olympic medals in three Alpine skiing disciplines and looks poised to continue her dominance going forward.
“A silver medal is incredible,” a smiling Shiffrin told reporters.
“I’m back in the mindset that it’s a really successful Games and I can kind of enjoy that now.”
Her second place finish in the combined helped ease the pain of her failure to defend her tile in slalom, where she entered a heavy favorite before buckling under the lofty expectations placed on the shoulders of the 22-year-old.
Shiffrin initially took that fourth place finish hard, posting on social media that she had gone over the race “a thousand times” in her head.
She concluded that letdowns are a natural part of life and added that she struggled to cope with the schedule, which had been reshuffled a number of times due to high winds.
“I won a gold in GS like two weeks ago but it feels like it was a year ago,” she said.
Schedule changes led her to pull out of Wednesday’s downhill race, where she would have had a shot at the podium, so she could be rested for the combined.
The pressure on Shiffrin at the Games was magnified as the media had crowned her the heir apparent to the greatest female skier of all time, fellow American Lindsey Vonn.
“For sure the expectations were high,” said Shiffrin, who arrived in Pyeongchang in late January.
“It’s been a mental rollercoaster because I came here nine days before the Games started and I got some training in on various mountains in South Korea.”
That training paid off on Thursday as she was able to steady her nerves and claim silver.
“After my downhill run I thought I would probably I would be out of the medals because I had too many mistakes,” she said.
“I thought I may have lost too much time to really make it up.”
“I just tried to let it go in the slalom and I felt pretty good before the start of the slalom so I definitely had the right mentality,” she said.
Asked whether she would be competing in Saturday’s inaugural Alpine team event, Shiffrin said her work in Pyeongchang was done.
“No. I have some celebrating to do.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)