Shiffrin in prime po­si­tion after fast 1st run of Olympic gi­ant slalom


PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA — Mikaela Shiffrin turned in an elec­tric open­ing run of the Olympic gi­ant slalom Thurs­day, sit­ting in sec­ond po­si­tion and in prime po­si­tion for a gold medal.

The 22-year-old Amer­i­can stand­out trails leader Manuela Moelgg of Italy by a scant 0.20 se­conds head­ing into the fi­nal run later in the day at Yong­py­ong Alpine Cen­ter. The sun was out and the wind muted.

Fi­nally, the women were rac­ing.

Shiffrin was just happy for that, given all the post­pone­ments due to weather and strong wind. The women’s gi­ant slalom was ini­tially sched­uled for Mon­day but moved to Thurs­day. The slalom was sup­posed to be Wed­nes­day but got pushed to Fri­day.

Down the road about 30 miles (50 kilo­me­ters) in Jeongseon, the men were rac­ing the Olympic down­hill Thurs­day. That was sup­posed to take place Sun­day.

“Oh my gosh, last night, I was like, ‘Are we ever go­ing to race?!’” Shiffrin said, laugh­ing. “It’s re­ally nice. And it’s fair to­day, which is re­ally, re­ally im­por­tant, es­pe­cially at the Olympics. The con­di­tions are great. The weather is beau­ti­ful. And it’s a plea­sure to be rac­ing to­day.”

The top 30 fin­ish­ers from the first run go in re­verse or­der for the fi­nal run, with their times com­bined to de­ter­mine the win­ner. Shiffrin will be sec­ond to last. Moelgg was the first racer on the course and fin­ished in a blis­ter­ing time of 1 minute, 10.62 se­conds. Her best fin­ish at the Olympics was 11th in the slalom at the 2010 Van­cou­ver Games. The 34-year-old Moelgg has never won a World Cup race.

Moelgg’s team­mate, Fed­er­ica Brignone, was in third po­si­tion and re­mains within strik­ing dis­tance, just 0.29 se­conds back. One of the fa­vorites, Tessa Wor­ley of France, strug­gled and is 1.44 se­conds be­hind. Swiss skier Lara Gut fell on the hill and slid into a row of pho­tog­ra­phers off to the side. She ap­peared un­hurt and got back up.

On her first pass through the course, Shiffrin de­scribed the snow as “chat­tery” in the mid­dle sec­tion, mean­ing she — along with every­one else — was in for a bumpy ride.

“I still think every­one had some first-run jit­ters. So what you saw there from any­body, it wasn’t re­ally a good de­pic­tion of what we can all do,” Shiffrin said. “So sec­ond run is go­ing to be like a new race. I think it’ll be re­ally, re­ally in­ter­est­ing.”

Shiffrin fin­ished fifth in the GS at the 2014 Sochi Games. She’s the de­fend­ing Olympic slalom cham­pion.

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