Team USA

Mikaela Shiffrin’s Gold Rush Begins With a Bang

At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Mikaela Shiffrin won the slalom, but in her only other event, the giant slalom, she finished fifth. Shiffrin, then 18 years old, was peeved. “The next Olympics I go to,” she said at the time, “I’m sure as heck not getting fifth.” On Thursday, after three days of races postponed by strong winds, Shiffrin’s celebrated quest for multiple gold medals at the Pyeongchang Olympics finally began. And she emphatically lived up to her prophecy with a stirring, authoritative, come-from-behind victory in the giant slalom. Roaring down a steep and especially taxing racecourse, Shiffrin was both the most aggressive and most technically sound skier. Despite a minor miscue in the race’s final 50 yards, her two-run time of 2 minutes and 20.02 seconds was 0.39 seconds ahead of Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway. Italy’s Federica Brignone won the bronze medal. “It’s more than another gold medal,” said Shiffrin, who joins Ted Ligety and Andrea Mead Lawrence as the only Americans to win two Alpine Olympic gold medals. “I knew I might win multiple medals at these Olympics but I also knew I could come away with nothing. Now I know that I’ve got one.” But by winning in the giant slalom, which is her third-best event, Shiffrin has heightened her possibilities for at least three gold medals, which is the most any Alpine skier has won in any Olympics. On Friday, she will defend her Olympic title in what is her strongest event, the slalom. Next week, she will be favored in the Alpine combined, the last individual Alpine race of the Pyeongchang Games. Shiffrin also indicated on Thursday that she was planning to race in a fourth event next week, the women’s downhill. Although Eileen Shiffrin, Mikaela’s mother and one of her coaches, said her daughter would not enter a fifth event, the women’s super-G on Saturday. Shiffrin’s giant slalom victory completes a portion of a four-year journey to transform herself into an elite racer in every Alpine event. But the first of the events she had to conquer was the giant slalom, a speedier and more changeable race than the slalom. As Shiffrin said Thursday: “I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with giant slalom. It’s been a fight sometimes.” Only months after the 2014 Sochi Games, Shiffrin began a dedicated training program to improve in the event. As a high schooler then, she had once been among the best junior skiers in the world at giant slalom. But as she became a professional, she found more success in slalom and spent more time on it. Her giant slalom results, not surprisingly, lagged. Still, in the summer of 2014, Shiffrin began to study videotape of her best giant slalom runs, going all the way back to her days as an amateur. Alone in a dark room, an Olympic champion was taking the unusual step of scrutinizing her technique as a young teen. “The clues to improvement aren’t always in the places you expect,” Shiffrin said in an interview last year, recalling the summer of 2014. Shiffrin had another strategy to make the leap from being just a competitive World Cup giant slalom skier to one of the world’s best. She decided to spend hours quizzing Ligety, the American skier and defending Olympic giant slalom champion who had single-handedly revolutionized giant slalom technique between 2012 and 2013. In the fall of 2014, Shiffrin trained with Ligety in Colorado, not far from her home outside Vail. Afterward, they would watch videotape of that day’s training for an hour to 90 minutes. “I remember that Mikaela would ask me about 20 questions in every 15-minute span,” Ligety said late last year. “When we’d be done, I’d say, ‘What else do you want to know?’” “And she’d answer: ‘Everything else.’” In October that year, Shiffrin won her first World Cup giant slalom. Two months later, she had the first of six straight top 10 finishes in the event and by the winter of 2016-17, she was rarely out of the top five in any giant slalom. This season, she has won two giant slalom races and been second in another.

It was a thrill to watch Colorado native Mikaela Shiffrin win her gold last night!  We defintely look forward to seeing her go for more!  Go get ’em, Mikaela!!!    🙂

Ledecky almost laps the field, breaks own world record in 800-meter freestyle

Katie Ledecky delivered another dominating performance at the Rio Olympic Games Friday night, handily breaking her own world record in the 800-meter freestyle. Ledecky joined American Debbie Meyer as the only women to sweep the three longer freestyle events at the same Olympics. Meyer took the 200, 400 and 800 at the 1968 Mexico Games, and Ledecky matched that performance with a couple of world records as well. Ledecky also became only the third American woman to win four gold medals in a single Olympics, following fellow swimmers Amy Van Dyken (1996) and Missy Franklin (2012). Ledecky was merely racing the clock as she powered away from the field to touch in 8 minutes, 4.79 seconds, eclipsing the mark 8:06.68 that she set at a grand prix meet in Texas back in January. Then she waited for the rest of the field to finish. Great Britain’s Jazz Karlin finally touched in 8:16.17 to claim the silver, just ahead of Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas grabbing the bronze in 8:16.37. Some 23 seconds after Ledecky touched the wall, the last of the eight finalists finally got to the end of the grueling race. Ledecky’s swim helped restore order to the Rio pool after Michael Phelps was denied a fourth consecutive gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly by Singapore’s Joseph Schooling. Phelps settled for silver along with two longtime rivals, Chad le Clos of South Africa and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary. They all touched in 51.14 — a half-body length behind Schooling’s winning time of 50.39. Phelps still has a chance to leave Rio with 23 Olympic golds in his career. But he’ll have to do with some help from his teammates, swimming in the butterfly leg of the 400 medley relay on the final night of swimming on Saturday. In all, Phelps has won four gold medals at these Games, two in relays as well as the 200-meter butterfly and 200-meter individual medley. Maya DiRado gave the Americans another gold, pulling off a furious rally on the final lap to upset “Iron Lady” Katinka Hosszu of Hungary. Hosszu settled for silver, denied in her bid for a fourth gold in Rio. The bronze went to Canada’s Hilary Caldwell.

What an amazing race last night!!  Katie annihilated the competition, and then handled it with class, and dignity.  She represented Team USA with distinction and made us proud.  Congrats Katie!!  Thanks for bringing home the gold!    🙂