Mikaela Shiffrin takes gold in her first race of Pyeongchang Olympics

Ed Stoner
Special to The Aspen Times
Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, celebrates her gold medal during the venue ceremony at the Women's Giant Slalom at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018., Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — The sun finally came out, and Mikaela Shiffrin was more than ready to kick off her Olympics.

After days of delays due to windy and snowy weather, Shiffrin took gold in the giant slalom Thursday, winning her second career Olympic medal and — to that point — living up to the great expectations for her in the Pyeongchang Games.

Shiffrin fell to the ground in celebration after the win.

“It was an amazing feeling,” she said of the moment. “Like, my best effort is good enough. It was good enough today, and I have Olympic gold in giant slalom.”

Shiffrin, 22, of Eagle-Vail, finished with a time of 2:20.02, 0.39 seconds ahead of Ragnhild Mowinckel, at the YongPyong Alpine Centre. Federica Brignone took bronze.

“Very happy,” said her father, Jeff Shiffrin, in the finish area. “It’s just so cool that all the effort worked and finally came together.”

The intervals flashed green all the way down, as Shiffrin built up her lead before giving back a bit of time at the end of the race. She still won by a comfortable margin after first-run leader Manuela Moelgg faltered.

“I’m still blown away by this win today,” Shiffrin’s mom, Eileen, said after the race. “I’m so proud of her and I was incredibly impressed with her skiing. Watching I was like, ‘Wow, there it is, there we go, that’s some really good skiing.’”

Alpine skiing has seen three postponements so far in the Olympics — the women’s giant slalom and slalom as well as the men’s downhill — but the weather cleared up and was sunny and cold Thursday for both the women’s GS and the men’s downhill.

Asked after her first run if she was happy to be finally skiing, Shiffrin said, “You don’t even know.”

“Oh my gosh, last night I was like, ‘Are we ever going to race?’” she said.

Shiffrin had originally been scheduled to compete in giant slalom first. Then it was supposed to be slalom. Finally, it was GS that began her Olympics.

“I don’t see there being any advantage one way or the other,” she said. “I’ve been skiing well in both GS and slalom and I just was thinking, ‘OK, I’ll be ready when we race.’ But the toughest thing is just to mentally tide yourself over until it is time to go, and now we’ve been race-ready for the past basically five days in a row, and we’re finally racing today.”

The women are now scheduled to compete in three events in three days.

Eileen Shiffrin said after the race that her daughter won’t compete in Saturday’s super-G.

“It had seemed like she was going to be one of the fastest girls and the coaches were going to put her in, but the way this is all turning out, it’s going to be too stacked up,” Eileen Shiffrin said.

It is Shiffrin’s expansion to the speed events that has made her the most dominant skier on the World Cup tour.

In Sochi four years ago, Shiffrin was a slalom specialist who also competed in the giant slalom, finishing fifth. But in the last four years, she has introduced more speed events into her schedule is finding success across the spectrum of event.

Since Sochi, she has won six World Cups in the giant slalom. She’s topped the podium in downhill and alpine combined as well.

Last season she won the overall title, and this season she leads the overall standings by a huge margin.

She’s won 10 World Cup races and has five other podiums this season.

In Sochi, she said she wanted to win five gold medals in Pyeongchang.

“Going into the Olympics I thought, ‘Yeah, I could come away with multiple medals,’” she said. “I could also walk away with nothing, and now I know that I have something. So that’s a really nice feeling.”