BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin’s Beijing Olympics threatened to turn into a winter nightmare, but snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis won the U.S. team’s first Games gold medal on Wednesday.
Six gold medals were up for grabs on day five of competition in the Chinese capital, but Shiffrin’s wait continues in his tentative pursuit of a third career Olympic gold in alpine skiing.
The 26-year-old made a surprise exit from the giant slalom on Monday and with the pressure suffered the same fate in the slalom, with rival Petra Vlhova of Slovakia taking full advantage.
Vlhova produced a stunning second leg to clock a combined 1min 44.98sec over both runs and edge reigning world champion Austria Katharina Liensberger in silver by eight hundredths of a second.
In stark contrast, Shiffrin slid wide after just a handful of gates before skiing in the first stage, then threw herself into the snow with her head in her hands.
The American said she felt “pretty awful”, although she added: “But it won’t be awful forever. I just feel pretty low right now.
Shiffrin will compete in three more individual events in Beijing, with the super-G on Friday, followed by the downhill on Tuesday and the alpine combined on February 17.
Snowboard cross racer Jacobellis said her infamous crash that cost her the Olympic title in 2006 “kept her hungry” as she eventually put the United States on the gold medal table.
Jacobellis was comfortably leading the final at the 2006 Turin Olympics when she attempted to ‘style’ her final jump – and fell just short of the finish line, finishing second.
“(People) can keep talking about (2006) all they want because it really shaped me into the individual that I am and kept me hungry and really helped me keep fighting. in sport,” the 36-year-old said.
Another American snowboarder, Chloe Kim, qualified first in the halfpipe after a sparkling first run, but then suffered a crash in her second.
Along with Shiffrin, 21-year-old Kim, who made global headlines when she won snowboarding gold as a teenager at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, is one of the stars to watch at these Games. Olympics.
“Well, I fell, so it wasn’t great,” she said of her failed second run that left her sprawled on her stomach as she tried to land after a trick. .
She said her first run went so well “honestly for the second run I just wanted to try a different line, I had never done it before so I’m not surprised I fell.
“But I’m having so much fun here… Can’t ask for anything more, just enjoying the ride.”
Also in snowboarding action, but on the other end of her career for Kim was 35-year-old Shaun White.
The three-time Olympic champion – who is twice the age of some of his rivals – will retire from competition after Beijing and is determined to emerge in style.
But he looked more likely to come out with a whimper when he crashed on his first halfpipe run, before making a much better second effort to reach the final in an ultimately comfortable fourth place.
White admitted he was worried.
“I knew I could do it, I was just like ‘what if?’ What happens if I slip or something happens – I hit a piece of snow and it’s over. It’s the big fear, the unforeseen,” said the American.
In freestyle skiing, Birk Ruud took a commanding victory in Big Air – and was so comfortable he performed his third jump holding the Norwegian flag.
He also wore a gold bracelet on his left wrist in tribute to his father, who died of cancer last April.
“I got it from my dad before he died,” Ruud said.
“I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to him, he is with me,” he added, touching the bracelet.
Separately, the International Olympic Committee said the medal ceremony for the figure skating team had been delayed by a legal issue.
The Russian team won the gold medal, the United States took the silver and Japan the bronze, but the ceremony was pulled from its scheduled slot on Tuesday. IOC spokesman Mark Adams cited a “legal consultation” with the sport’s governing body, the International Skating Union, without giving further details.