As Alpine skiing’s mixed gender team event makes its second Winter Olympics appearance, Mikaela Shiffrin will compete for the sixth and final time at these Games.
The 26-year-old Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, finished ninth in women’s super-G and 18th in the downhill and skied out in the giant slalom, slalom and the slalom portion of the combined at these 2022 Winter Olympics. The disappointing performance has Shiffrin baffled yet demonstrating some weighty perspective while competing in all six Olympic Alpine events.
“Why do I keep coming back? Gosh knows it hurts more than it feels good lately,” Shiffrin tweeted after the combined Thursday, calling out some of the online abuse she has received since her first DNF. “I come back because those first 9 turns today were spectacular, really heaven. That’s where I’m meant to be and I’m stubborn as s—. So let’s go for some team event training tomorrow, and then the final race of this Olympics.”
— Mikaela Shiffrin (@MikaelaShiffrin) February 17, 2022
Shiffrin will team up with Paula Moltzan, Tommy Ford, Luke Winters, A.J. Hurt and River Radamus.
“I’m really excited because it adds a really user-friendly, watchable event, to the Olympics,” Moltzan told On Her Turf. “Ski racing is not the easiest [to follow] whereas the team event is a head-to-head competition where you can see who’s faster.”
This knockout-format team event, one of nine mixed-gender events being staged (four of which are new), debuted at the 2005 world championships in Bormio, Italy, and was added as a regular event in the World Cup Finals beginning in 2006. Switzerland won the inaugural Olympic team event in 2018 with a team that featured slalom silver medalist Wendy Holdener, who followed up with a slalom bronze and a silver in the combined. Austria claimed silver and Norway took bronze to complete an all-European sweep.
How to watch alpine skiing’s mixed team event at the 2022 Winter Olympics:
The mixed team parallel slalom kicks off with the Round of 16 in the U.S. on Friday, Feb. 18, at 10 p.m. ET. The final races of the day are expected to take place at 12:46 p.m. local time (11:46 p.m. ET).
|Event||Date / Time (U.S. Eastern)||Date / Time (Beijing, China)||How to Watch|
|Alpine Skiing – Mixed Team Event||2/18/22 10:00 PM||2/19/22 11:00 AM||NBC | Peacock | NBCOlympics.com|
What are the U.S. team’s chances in the parallel slalom?
The U.S. faces stiff competition from the usual suspects, with Shiffrin’s 2022 Olympic finale grabbing its share of the spotlight.
While Shiffrin doesn’t regularly participate in the team competition, she hinted ahead oh her first race that she was interested in the event this time.
Moltzan believes the U.S. is a medal contender with Shiffrin in the lineup.
“She’s still the best in the world, and she’s gonna put on a fight,” said Moltzan, who is making her Olympics debut and finished eighth in the slalom and 12th in the giant slalom. “I think any athlete, when you’re paired head-to-head with them, is going to push harder than ever, and I think she will be totally fine with no experience in parallel in a while. … I think it will be no problem for her to step in and (be) the fastest competitor on the hill.”
In 2018, the U.S. team did not have stars like Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn or Ted Ligety in the lineup and lost in the first round to 13th-ranked Great Britain.
What countries will contend in the Olympic Alpine mixed team event?
Switzerland is the defending Olympic champion, and they followed up their 2018 Olympic gold with a win at the 2019 world championships. They currently lead the individual Alpine medal count, with five gold, one silver and three bronze. Among the Swiss medalists are Lara Gut-Behrami (gold in super-G, bronze in GS in 2022), Holdener (bronze in slalom, silver in combined) and Corinne Suter (gold in downhill).
Austria, silver medalist both at the 2018 Olympics and 2019 worlds, are second in the Alpine medal count with six – two gold, three silver and one bronze. They are led by 2021 women’s parallel giant slalom and slalom world champion Katharina Liensberger, who was part of the silver medal team in 2018 and won silver in the women’s slalom.
The Norwegians enter as the reigning world champions, and they were also on the podium four years ago with a bronze in PyeongChang. Sweden has medaled in five of the last six world championships (bronze in 2011, 2015, 2017; silver in 2013, 2021), while Germany won bronze at the 2021 worlds. Italy, bronze medalist at 2019 worlds, fields a strong team including three-time Olympic medalist Federica Brignone and world medalist Marta Bassino.
Why is the Alpine mixed team event special?
The parallel slalom is unique in Alpine in that it offers the intensity of a side-by-side duel with the emotion of a team event. Add in the excitement of it being the final Alpine skiing race of the Games, and it’s a recipe for “must-see” action.
“I think it’s a really fun event,” U.S. skier Megan McJames said in 2018. “We’re still working out the kinks, but both racing someone head-to-head and being able to train and race with the boys is super fun.”
“The course is short, so you have to be more precise than the slalom and GS; it’s a cool event that should be continued,” said Michael Matt, who was part of Austria’s silver in PyeongChang.
How does the Olympic Alpine mixed team parallel competition work?
As in 2018, the team competition will feature the 16 best teams seeded in a single-elimination bracket. The competition kicks off with a round of 16, followed by the quarterfinals, semifinals and the final.
The knockout format allows teams to include up to six skiers, but just four racers – two women, two men – compete in each round. Like other parallel slalom competitions, two opponents ski at the same time on two identical courses that sit side-by-side on the slope. The course uses GS gates, although they are slightly closer together than a traditional GS course. The country with the most points after the four races wins. If the teams tie at 2-2, the team with the best aggregate time wins. If both skiers fall or miss a gate, the skier who progressed the farthest wins the point.
While the event will be back at the National Alpine Ski Center in Yanqing, athletes will compete on a different track than was used for any of the women’s or men’s previous five events, moving to a slope that features wider terrain with less severe pitches laterally.
“You can’t really ski parallel on a really steep hill, because it’s just really difficult,” explained Moltzan. “So, it’s a pretty moderate hill with some built-in terrain, but it allows the event to be more fair from left to right. This hill is basically as straightforward as you get.”
On Her Turf editor Alex Azzi and NBC Olympics Research contributed to this report.
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All through the Beijing Games, the unchecked swagger of Canada’s women’s hockey team had been conspicuous for all to see — and to admire, fume over and fear.
There were the humiliations of the teams that would play for the bronze medal, the edgy digs at rivals, the nuanced critiques of the failed strategies to score on Ann-Renée Desbiens, the goaltender who made the Canadian crease a fortress.
The Canadians proved Thursday that all of it was justified: They overpowered the United States in the gold medal game, 3-2, and reclaimed the Olympic crown that the Americans had wrested away four years ago.
Canada’s victory was a display of strong-armed, swarming play, blended with a few doses of luck and an angsty, furious drive that started with the Olympic loss in 2018.
The outcome was one that the Canadians had tiptoed toward predicting. To them, a gold medal often seemed less about redemption and more about simply meeting a ceaselessly high standard.
“We’ve been playing so well that when we do play our way — and not focus on other teams or focus on who we’re playing — we are unstoppable,” said Natalie Spooner, a forward on her third Canadian Olympic team.
Canada appeared to strike about seven minutes into Thursday’s game, when the American goaltender Alex Cavallini deflected a puck and saw Spooner sweep it in with a powerful shot. The United States, though, challenged that Canada had been offside, an assessment the officials upheld.
“I owe you one,” Spooner said her teammate Sarah Nurse told her on the bench. “I was offside.”
Thirty-five seconds later, the goal arrived: After Canada won a face-off, Nurse took a pass, spun and scored.
Canada doubled its lead later in the period on a shot by Marie-Philip Poulin, the Canadian captain who was playing in her fourth Games, and pushed it to 3-0 when Poulin scored again midway through the second.
Hilary Knight scored a short-handed goal for the United States late in the second, promising that the Americans would at least avoid the indignity of being shut out when a gold medal was for the taking.
A power-play goal with 13 seconds to play made the final score close. By then, though, the Canadian team knew its victory was assured.
So did the Americans.
“We wanted to just get a lot of pucks in there and actually have a lot of bodies, and I don’t think we did enough of a great job of that,” U.S. forward Abby Roque said.
Thursday’s spectacle was familiar ground, the sixth gold medal game between Canada and the United States since women’s hockey became an Olympic sport in 1998. The United States captured the first Olympic title but not another until 2018, when it won a game decided by a shootout that was seen, at least in Canada, as an aberration, not a harbinger of a power shift.
Many of the meetings leading to Thursday’s game suggested as much. The Canadians won a preliminary round game in Beijing, 4-2, and posted a 4-2 record in a series of pre-Olympic exhibition games in North America.
The teams were the unquestioned titans of the Games. Entering Thursday, Canada had scored 54 goals, an Olympic tournament record, and had three women — Brianne Jenner, Sarah Fillier and Jamie Lee Rattray — among the five top scorers in Beijing.
The United States had logged two shutout wins, and had twice defeated Finland, which won the bronze medal on Wednesday night.
Led by Kendall Coyne Schofield, the captain and one of the world’s fastest skaters, and Knight, who on Thursday set the American record for most games played by a women’s hockey player at the Olympics, the United States possessed a fearsome attack that forced rival goalies to confront a storm of shots through the tournament.
But the Americans struggled again on Thursday to turn chances into goals. At the same time, they found a Canadian squad eager — and able — to score quickly. In the first period, Canada tied the United States for shots, with 11, a marked shift from their last meeting, when the Americans had 16 attempts in the first and the Canadians managed only five.
|3||21||0 for 2||6|
|2||40||1 for 3||4|
The United States eventually outpaced Canada in shots again, calling to mind the Canadian judgment after their first meeting that the Americans were all too happy to try to overwhelm opponents with a barrage of shots that were not always good ones.
Still, it was a strategy that worked for most of the Games. But as time faded on Thursday, with the Americans scrambling to a final soundtrack of clacking and hitting and emptying their net with more than three minutes to play, it was clear which team had shown itself to be the better one.
Just as Canada had long asserted that it would.
YANQING, China—Mikaela Shiffrin skidded out of the the third of her five races at the Beijing Olympics on Thursday, the alpine combined, meaning the U.S. skiing superstar won’t win an individual medal at these Games.
Shiffrin passed the fifth gate—where she had skied out in the first two races at these Olympics, then had actual nightmares about it as she slept—but faltered a few gates later.
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It’s been a difficult Winter Olympics thus far for Alpine skiing great Mikaela Shiffrin. The 26-year-old American has twice done something she hardly ever does in international competition: “ski out” of a race.
It’s a dreaded term for elite ski racers, one that is usually accompanied by the letters DNF – did not finish – meaning a skier failed to complete the course and register a valid run.
Making the gates
Alpine skiing courses are lined with brightly colored markers, called gates, which athletes must ski through as they navigate the slope. In the downhill, super-G and giant slalom disciplines, gates are marked by pairs of flags anchored to the snow by flexible plastic poles. Making contact with a flag is allowed, provided that every part of the skier’s body and equipment stays inside the inner-most pole.
Gates on a giant slalom course.
Slalom is a bit different. For starters, the gates are made up of single poles rather than larger flags. The poles, alternating in color, indicate various turns the skiers must perform down the hill.
Gates on a slalom course.
A common misconception is that the color of each pole indicates whether the skiers must go to the right or left of it. While this might often appear to be the case when watching a slalom competition, the color of each pole is simply meant to let the skiers know which gate is up next. It falls upon the athletes to learn the proper combination of turns outline by the course, which happens during set inspection periods in the hours or days before a race.
SEE MORE: Alpine Skiing 101: Competition format
What does it mean to ski out?
Simply put, skiing out means missing a gate at any point during a ski race. The consequences of doing so are instant disqualification from the event even if it spans multiple runs, as slalom, giant slalom and the combined event do at the Winter Olympics.
Sometimes, especially in the speed disciplines of downhill and super-G, ski outs happen when an athlete loses control and crashes off his or her skis. Shiffrin suffered a minor crash – and was uninjured – during her giant slalom run.
However, skiers can also ski out even without crashing if they stray too far outside the racing line, as Shiffrin did two days later in the slalom.
The six-time world champion is expected to compete in three other events.
For the second straight competition, Mikaela Shiffrin has shockingly busted out of the competition just seconds into the first run. Shiffrin missed the fourth gate in her slalom run, the event where she won her first Olympic gold in 2014, and will not contend for a medal.
The skier, who was expected to challenge for several medals in Beijing, sat on the side of the hill, with her head in her hands, for minutes after the stunning accident.
The second run will come later in the evening.
The 26-year-old also fell during her first run in the giant slalom on Monday, disqualifying her from the event.
“Could blame it on a lot of things…and we’ll analyze it till the cows come home, but not today,” Shiffrin said on Instagram following that crash. “Today I chalk it up to really awful timing of a really frustrating mistake. Moving focus to slalom now, AND cheering for my teammates in the second run of the GS and the DH!”
Sweden’s Sara Hector took the gold with a time of 1:55:68, followed by Italy’s Federica Brignone with a time of 1:55.97 and Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami with a time of 1:56:41.
Shiffrin is one medal away from tying the record for most Olympic medals by a female American Alpine skier, four. She is two gold medals away from holding the record for most golds ever by a female Alpine skier, also four.
Shiffrin aims to have many chances to attempt those feats during the games as she plans on competing in three other Alpine events over the next two weeks.
She is still expected to compete in the super-G on Thursday, the downhill on Valentine’s Day and the combined on Feb. 17.
Shiffrin, a Colorado native, has been competing since she was 16 and quickly became one of the sport’s all-time greatest skiers with her record-setting performances. She is the most decorated Alpine skier in the world circuit having won 11 World Championship medals, six gold.
At 18 years old she became the youngest slalom champion when she won a gold medal in the 2014 Sochi Games. Shiffrin won a gold medal in the giant slalom competition and a silver medal in the combined competition during the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.