PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — The start of Mikaela Shiffrin’s bid for multiple medals at the 2018 Olympics was delayed yet again when the women’s slalom was postponed from Wednesday to Friday because of strong winds.
It’s the third time in four days an Alpine skiing race was shelved because gusts made it too dangerous for competition. That complicates matters for someone such as Shiffrin, who could try to enter up to five individual events but now has less time to rest and prepare between them.
Based on the sport’s original 11-event program for South Korea, Shiffrin would have raced on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday in Week 1, with full days off to help in the transition from her preferred technical events of slalom and giant slalom to the speed events. As of now, she would have zero days in between, racing three days in a row from Thursday through Saturday.
“Well, it compresses the schedule, so it makes for a more hectic five, six days as we approach into the speed events,” U.S. women’s head coach Paul Kristofic said. “So that’s something we’re considering as we move forward. It’s a consideration, absolutely.”
Shiffrin was supposed to get started with the giant slalom on Monday; that race was rescheduled for Thursday and will now be her first at these Winter Games. Under the current plan, next would come the slalom, a race she won at the 2014 Olympics at age 18, followed by the first women’s speed race, the super-G, on Saturday.
Weather permitting, that is.
“The wind is supposed to settle down the next couple of days and the slope itself is in perfect condition, so we have that going for us,” Kristofic said.
The men’s downhill, which was supposed to open Alpine skiing on Sunday, also was shifted to Thursday, when the forecast calls for a lessening of the swirling and blustery winds that have been creating problems.
Friday also will be a double-competition day, with the women’s slalom at the Yongpyong Alpine Center that hosts technical races, and the men’s super-G at the Jeongseon Alpine Center speed hill about 30 miles (50 kilometers) away.
That super-G was originally scheduled for Thursday but was pushed to Friday once the men’s downhill was moved.
On Wednesday at Yongpyong, snow was falling and wind blowing this way and that. Already facing a bit of a time crunch because of all of the weather issues, organizers kept pushing back the first run of the two-run slalom until eventually deciding to call it off about an hour after the start time.
“The No. 1 thing is safety. And the second thing is: Have a good, fair race. Neither of those were really achievable today,” Kristofic said.
Shiffrin has dominated the slalom for five years, including her Olympic gold as a teenager and the past three world titles.
Whenever she does get to head down the hill through the gates, the 22-year-old American will be attempting to become the first athlete to win the slalom at two Winter Games in a row.
She is expected to be one of the superstars of the next two weeks, considered a medal favorite in slalom and giant slalom, a strong contender in the combined and a possible entrant in the other two women’s individual races, the downhill and super-G.
Among the women who could challenge Shiffrin in the technical races are Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, who claimed silver in the slalom and gold in the Alpine combined event at last year’s world championships; Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter, owner of three world championship medals in the slalom; and Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, who has won two World Cup slaloms this season.