Sochi recap: Alpine skiing, women’s giant slalom

Hey, save some Olympic medals for someone else! Tina Maze won her second gold of these Games, Anna Fenninger added a silver to her gold, and defending champion Viktoria Rebensburg took bronze this time around. U.S. teen Mikaela Shiffrin, a strong slalom contender, took a solid fifth place here.

Date: 18-Feb

Sport: Alpine skiing

Event: Women’s giant slalom

Medalists: Tina Maze (Slovenia), Anna Fenninger (Austria), Viktoria Rebensburg (Germany)

SportsMyriad projections: Jessica Lindell-Vikarby (Sweden), Tina Maze (Slovenia), Lara Gut (Switzerland)

How U.S. fared: This was our first look at Mikaela Shiffrin, misleadingly billed as the next Lindsey Vonn. Shiffrin is a world champion and World Cup champion in the slalom; Vonn is mostly a speed specialist. Shiffrin isn’t bad in giant slalom, ranking sixth in the current World Cup standings. She did one better in the first run here, taking fifth, and she stayed fifth when the standings shook up a little in the second.

Shiffrin wound up 0.50 seconds behind the winner and 0.23 off the podium. The margin to those behind her was bigger — 0.45 down to sixth, way down to eighth and beyond. No medal, but this was a very good start to what could be a terrific Olympic career.

Resi Stiegler and Megan McJames barely missed the top 30 in the first run — 32nd and 33rd. Two of the top 30 didn’t finish, and neither did the 31st, and Stiegler and McJames easily moved up to 29th and 30th.

Julia Mancuso, already a medalist at these Games (to add to her collection), did not finish the first run.

What happened: One contender was already out — Germany’s Maria Höfl-Riesch had a cold and decided to stay home and count her medals.

Slovenia’s Tina Maze, who dominated the World Cup circuit last year but hasn’t been quite as good this season, took a big lead of 0.52 seconds in the first run. Packed together behind her: Sweden’s Jessica Lindell-Vikarby, Italy’s Nadia Fanchini, Austria’s Anna Fenninger, and the USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin.

But the variable conditions of the second run — snow at the top, rain at the bottom, inconsistent fog in the middle — left the possibility that someone could make a big run and move up quite a bit. Through the first 24 skiers, the leaders were Sweden’s Marie Pietalie-Holmner, France’s Anemone Marmottan, and Switzerland’s Lara Gut.

The defending champion, Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, found a lot of speed on the course, blazing through with no trouble to take the lead. Shiffrin couldn’t quite match that and slipped one place.

Fenninger kept losing time to Rebensburg through the course but finished aggressively and maintained just enough of the lead she had from the first run — 0.20 seconds in front across the two legs.

Fanchini lost a good bit of time right away and made a tentative run. She came into the finish behind Fenninger and Rebensburg but just ahead of Shiffrin.

Lindell-Vikarby, the World Cup leader in this discipline, had a couple of skids early and snagged a gate. She made it down the course but lost a lot of time, dropping out of the top five.

So either Fenninger or Maze would win her second gold of the Games. Maze, cutting through the fog, gave the course plenty of respect. Her lead was down to 0.14 by the third split. And the finish … 0.07 in front!

Full results

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Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

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