ROSA KHUTOR, Russia – Eighteen-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO) became the youngest Olympic gold medalist in women’s slalom history Friday with her victory under the lights at Rosa Khutor. The World Champion capped off the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games for the women’s U.S. Alpine Ski Team with two stunning performances, giving her the first U.S. slalom victory since Phil Mahre in 1984.
“I wish I could have an American flag on my back in every World Cup, because that’s a really cool feeling to hold that and know that you’re representing not only yourself or your family or your team but your entire country. I owe this to so many people and I’m really glad that I could share it with them,” said Shiffrin. “Really, it’s not just me up here, it’s the entire U.S. I’ve seen all the tweets and all of the support and all of the critics, the doubters or whoever that don’t want to see me do it or don’t know if I can; every single one of them has pushed me to this point and I owe this to them as well.”
Marlies Schild and Kathrin Zettel of Austria skied to silver and bronze. Shiffrin’s win was the first women’s slalom victory for an American since Barbara Cochran in 1972.
“Today was one of the most special days of my life. These two (Marlies Schild and Kathrin Zettel) are my greatest idols. I modeled myself after them. To be in this moment with them, to share it with my family and friends, my team and my coaches, and everyone who has been in my past and will be in my future, it’s just very special,” added Shiffrin.
Shiffrin became the fifth youngest female gold medalist in alpine skiing, the fifth youngest medalist in women’s slalom behind Daniele Debernard (FRA-1972), and the sixth American to medal in the event. Only France and Austria have more with eight and seven respectively.
“I felt smitten when I realized right away that she was one of a kind and she wanted to know everything about skiing,” remarked Shiffrin’s coach Roland Pfeifer. “With the way she trains and the volume she trains she is probably 25 already, so it’s kind of normal that she skis the way she skis because she trains so much. She really thinks about skiing 24/7, she lives in Europe in the wintertime and she is really full on all the time. She’s really professional, and so it’s just normal that she gets these results.”
Rain early in the day created a soft snow surface, but officials were able to salt the course and provide a slightly grippy, world-class medium for the women to showcase the artistic athleticism of their sport. Still, Shiffrin’s win did not come without a fight.
“When her ski went up I almost died, because that’s what happened last time in Kranjska Gora in her last race and she dumped all of her speed. She’s a quick learner though,” noted her mom, Eileen Shiffrin. “She just was like, ‘Noooo! I’m not going again. Come on. Go! Go!’ So I’m just super proud of her. Roland and I definitely had a heart attack. I think this is like a World Cup race but the intensity is magnified a thousand times.”
Release courtesy of USSA