Gisin holds off Shiffrin to win Olympic Alpine combined

Pat Graham
Associated Press

Jeongseon, South Korea — Michelle Gisin of Switzerland won the women’s Olympic Alpine combined on Thursday with an aggressive slalom run to beat Mikaela Shiffrin.

Lindsey Vonn, the leader after the downhill portion, made a mistake early in the slalom and didn’t finish in what’s likely the final race of her Winter Games career.

Gisin turned in a nearly flawless performance as she finished in a combined time of 2 minutes, 20.90 seconds to eclipse the silver-medalist Shiffrin by 0.97 seconds. Wendy Holdener of Switzerland earned the bronze.

Add another medal to Shiffrin’s burgeoning collection. She won Olympic gold in the giant slalom a week ago and captured the slalom title at the 2014 Sochi Games.

This was very likely the first and only time Vonn and Shiffrin will meet in an Olympic race.

After crossing the finish line, Gisin pumped her right ski pole in exuberance as Shiffrin clapped for her. Gisin was in third position after the downhill leg and had a 1.22-second advantage over Shiffrin.

Gisin was able to hold off Shiffrin, who’s one of the world’s best slalom skiers. It shouldn’t be a surprise, given that Gisin came up as a slalom racer and captured a silver medal in the combined at the world championships last February.

Going last and wearing her neon-colored shin guards, Vonn made a mistake that ended her day.

Vonn also led after the downhill leg at the 2010 Vancouver Games. She didn’t finish the slalom that time.

Asked before the slalom race exactly how much slalom training she’s done lately, Vonn smiled, curling her index finger and thumb to make a “0.”

“I took one warmup run going to the slalom inspection in Lenzerheide,” Vonn said, alluding to her fourth-place finish at the World Cup stop in Switzerland in the combined last month. “So those are my last two slalom runs. And before that I did one day of slalom training before Christmas. So that’s the extent my slalom training this year.”

This very well could be Vonn’s last race at the Olympics. At 33, she’s already the oldest female Alpine ski racer to earn a medal with her bronze in the downhill on Wednesday. That goes with the gold from the 2010 Games. She didn’t compete at the Sochi Games because of a knee injury.

The combined was originally slated to be held Friday, but it was moved up a day due to the weather forecast of high wind. With the sun darting in and out and a light snow falling for the slalom, the artificial lights lining the course were switched on.

Down the road, Andre Myhrer of Sweden captured Olympic gold medal in men’s slalom. Big favorite Marcel Hirscher didn’t finish the first run as the Austrian great leaves these Olympics with two gold medals.

The last race on the Alpine side will be Saturday with the team event making its Olympic debut. Many of the top racers such as Hirscher, Vonn and Shiffrin are planning to skip the race – and another chance at a medal – to prepare for the resumption of the World Cup schedule.